Jenny Choi and the Third Shift
Grand And Ashland
Grand And Ashland is the second album from Chicago-based singer/songwriter Jenny Choi, but served as my introduction to her work. And it•s certainly enough to make me want to seek out more! On first listen, it•s not hard to imagine that she gets a lot of Tori Amos comparisons (singer/songwriter who does heartfelt songs with a lot of piano), but that•s doing the talented Ms. Choi a disservice, as there•s so much more than that going on here. For example, it•d be hard to imagine Tori pulling of a fiesty pop-punk tune like •My First Time,• but Jenny and her band pull it off admirably. There•s also a deeper R&B and jazz feel than you•d expect from Tori on a lot of these tracks — the opener, •Purge,• for example, is very reminiscent of Swing Out Sister or Brave New Girl. And Choi•s use of strings throughout the record really sets it apart — she even tackles the cello parts herself on •Wine.• The Third Shift proves an able unit, with bassist Tony Aronica and drummer Phillip Stone laying down a solid base, and Mike Smith providing an expressive guitar (especially with his subtle acoustic work on the gorgeous •Coarse•). Other highlights include the smoky •August 1st• (which ably showcases Choi•s beautiful voice) , the torchy •Bittersweet,• the quietly sexy •Even-Keeled,• and the relentless •Former Self.• So while at its core, Grand And Ashland is made up of pretty, melodic songs that are sure to appeal to fans of Tori, Sarah MacLachlan, and the like, Choi and the Third Shift work hard to transcend those comparisons and create something with its own unique charm. This record is definitely recommended. Oh, and don•t miss the hidden track •hardcore rock opera• hiding at the end of this — it•s good fun!
Ona Records, http://www.jennychoi.com