There’s an extent to which this is going to be at least as much a declaration of love as a review, because there are a couple of things about Cannonball Jane that really turn me on: The charming and polished 4-track simplicity of the recording and Jane’s (AKA Sharon Hagopian) gifts.
Street Vernacular is most successful when Jane/Sharon is creating musical environments to give her songs a home, her constructs of material sounding like someone who’s been left alone in the musical museum overnight. And I mean that as a good thing. Her best songs, “Slumber Party” and “Fine Reminder,” have an enchanting quality that sounds like butterflies flying in formation. (Don’t tell me that wouldn’t make any sound, this is exactly what it would sound like.) But the album fails when the songs don’t quite live up to her settings.
Jane/Sharon’s voice puts me in mind of Candace Coalman from The Cinematics, but sadly, most of you won’t know what that voice sounds like either. Trust me when I say: It’s a pop bauble. But Jane doesn’t yet have that unjustly obscure band’s skill with a melody; her vocal lines sound as though she’s holding herself in rather than letting them soar.
For another thing, she unfortunately succumbs to the temptation to distort her vocals on a couple of songs, which has the effect of a cute girl with too much makeup on. I want to say, “You don’t need it and you’re covering up what’s good.”
Still, as with girls like that, what’s good is too obvious to ignore. Cannonball Jane may not yet be an inspired songwriter but she’s halfway there, and with luck, the rest will all be downhill.
PS: The press release makes it a point to reassure us that no computers were used in the creation of the music, and it seems we’re supposed to take that as a good thing. I don’t — I say why the hell not? What, Depeche Mode and the Human League not good enough for you, is that it? My God, what this woman could do with a Fairlight…
Cannonball Jane: http://www.cannonballjane.com/