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Jenny Owen Youngs Batten The Hatches Review

Album. Released 2007.  

BBC Review

The weather with Jenny Owen Youngs can be pretty volatile indeed.

Sid Smith 2007

You're never quite sure where you are with this woman from New Jersey. Fresh and warm like summer sun one minute, then as biting as stinging frost on a winter morning the next; the weather with Jenny Owen Youngs can be pretty volatile indeed.

Her candour, as she chronicles the dark side of relationships, is unflinching. 'I seen the way you eye me up like a chunk of meat gone bad / like you were wishing I was something still worth having that you could go ahead and have' (''Coyote'').

And don't let her fondness for cuss words fool you into thinking that she's some new kid on the Indie block ranting about self-harm with a perma-sneer to match. Her waltz-time dissection of falling in love when maybe you shouldn't (''F**k Was I'') is viscerally direct and free from histrionics. Though a deserved hit on MySpace and Youtube, her fondness for everyone's favourite Anglo-Saxon expletive will nix any chance of mainstream airplay.

On stage she her tippy-toe agitation keeps things engagingly unpredictable. Thankfully the album captures this and the supple grace of the arrangements compliments her ever changing moods. Strands of pop, (''From Here'') and country (''Porchrail'' and the smiley ''P.S'') are fluently exercised. She even takes a redemptive swing at rap artist Nelly's ''Hot In Here'', with a cover that cleverly subverts the over-inflated bump 'n' grind.

There's also surprising tinges of electronica in evidence. ''Lightning Rod'' swoons on an undulating bed of sine waves and the eerie Portishhead-like ''Woodcut'' has a woozy ambience that's as unsettling as it is sexy. ''Keys Out Lights On'' wouldn’t sound out of place on a Robert Wyatt album.

Interestingly, the most structurally ambitious song, ''Bricks'', is also the album's most affecting: a five minute, multi-sectioned odyssey co-opting Nick Drake finger-picking, tart strings and close-mic intimacy that’s unbelievably poignant. It's an assured and sophisticated piece of writing performed with intensity, positively aglow with passion and an almost scary precision. Bearing in mind that this is her debut record, that she's finding this kind of form so early in her career is simply astonishing.

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