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.
A songwriter made of pure glee has returned with Young’s new album and in the couple of years since her last effort, Youngs has not lost any of her charisma, and if you had even a shadow of a doubt about that, opening track ‘Love For Long’ has enough sass to make even the most grumpy of curmudgeons smile and tap their feet, and yes, every grouch loves a bit of acoustic guitar.
Youngs also has an ability rather hard to find in the simple acoustic/vocal combinations spread wide across the contemporary music industry; to put a jovial beat to the sad/inspiring verses of ‘Your Apartment’ without losing any impact, and then to transition into such a hopeful outburst as the track’s excellent bridge without so much as a heart unwarmed, it’s rather impressive to listen to.
And if fun’s what you’re looking for in your music, look no further than here, there’s a veritable feast of tracks that are both playful and clever, for example, the eccentric ‘Pirates’, complete with a galloping drumbeat, a bridge that’s heavier than pretty much everything that makes it onto MTV2 these days and an ambiance that’s more enjoyable even than Youngs’ ironic cover of Nelly’s ‘Hot In Herre’.
On the other side of that coin however, is the melancholy side, and in the realm of the Simon And Garfunkel school of tugging at heartstrings is the violin-accompanied tearjerker that is ‘O God’, a song soft enough to serve as a blanket to a baby but weighty enough to crush the hearts of the aforementioned most grumpy of curmudgeons.
‘An Unwavering Band of Light’ is simply a treat for the ears and a handful of pleasantries on the side to boot, it’s hard to find anything to dislike within this neatly gift-wrapped package of a record and it wouldn’t be too rash of an assumption to assume that it would take someone with a vengeance to fish out a convoluted something for that purpose.