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Batten the Hatches

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Album Review

Jenny Owen Youngs looks like she might be another typical, long-haired hippie waif with guitar — then she opens her mouth, and your jaw drops. Youngs' voice has that delicate, childlike quality that plagues many a folksinging female, but when she digs into a song, the dissonance between her sweet alto and the acidic images she uses to paint her bittersweet portraits of life and love is startling. "Porchrail" opens the album with a backing band that sounds like the Violent Femmes. It's a simple acoustic rocker, with a swing feel that conveys the nervous energy that floods the body when you see someone you really want and probably can't have. The jittery beat and Youngs' pleading vocal create a mood of panting desire held in check by shyness and insecurity. Meanwhile, "F**k Was I" is a self-flagellating tale about being in thrall to a lover who can never do you any good, and yet the love abides. Her matter-of-fact vocal and the song's lilting beat make her use of the F word actually sound shocking, something that's increasingly hard to do in the 21st century. On "P.S.," Youngs plays the banjo in an arrangement with French horn, cello, bass clarinet, and foot stomps. The result sounds kinda like a Tom Waits song, dripping with irony and full of unexpected musical touches. Every song here uses the same basic formula — dark thoughts set to uplifting music — but it's a formula that works amazingly well. Youngs has an uncanny insight into the pains and insecurities that plague us all when we're in that vulnerable, confused position of wanting love and feeling unworthy, or wanting out of a relationship and being unable to cut loose from the obsession that makes the pain hurt so good. She also has an original voice and an ability to find light even in the darkest situations, making this a very polished and cohesive first album. ~ j. poet, Rovi


Born: 22 November 1981 in Montclair, NJ

Genre: Singer/Songwriter

Years Active: '00s

Coming up strong behind R. Stevie Moore as the most talented singer/songwriter to be based in the nondescript bedroom community of Montclair, NJ, Jenny Owen Youngs fuses Liz Phair's perceptive and brashly funny lyrics with the orchestrated folk-pop of Regina Spektor and Erin McKeown, adding just a hint of Nellie McKay's jazzy cabaret leanings and Cat Power's throaty, confessional angst. Born in New Jersey in 1981, Youngs first picked up the guitar at the age of 14 and attended the music program at...
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Batten the Hatches, Jenny Owen Youngs
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