Jenny Owen Youngs
Batten the Hatches
With her debut solo album, Jenny Owen Youngs joins the ranks of new female singer/songwriters, Ingrid Michaelson and Kate Voegele among them, with mainstream aspirations and a slight indie bent. In terms of her immediate competition, Youngs handily outshines all comers. Her voice is as strong as her pop sensibility, making tracks like “Voice on Tape” and “P.S.” much better than blank, MySpace sound byte material to accompany a pretty face. Her arrangements are stripped down and engaging with little more than her lyrics, guitar, and banjo. Youngs’ smart lyrics and assured appropriation of folk music easily justify her allure to fans of Sufjan Stevens, Cat Power, and The Decemberists.
“Fuck Was I” is perhaps the best example of this intelligence with the dissection of romance in the chorus: “skillet on the stove/ such a temptation/ maybe I’ll be the lucky one that doesn’t get burned/ what the fuck was I thinking.” This revelation comes after she declares in the same song that “love grows on [her] like a tumor.” It’s dark and pointed stuff, not as abrasive or confrontational as Liz Phair in her early days, but strung with the same amount of venom. It’s great music for angst-driven women in their early twenties, and while none of those titles apply to me, it’s more than a little heart-warming to think that Youngs could muscle out the contrived former queens of her genre like Michelle Branch and Avril Lavigne with this well-earned credibility.