The beautiful thing about reviewing records is that from time to time you receive a disc that you know absolutely nothing about, yet it just hits you so hard that you can’t get it out of your player for days on end. This is one of those records. Most often described as a post-punk songwriter, I hear a lot more jazz than punk in Janes‚ smoky vocals while the instrumentation draws on an enormous breadth of approaches.
Janes provides vocals and guitar on all tracks with producer Sufjan Stevens displaying his multi-instrumental brilliance by adding layers of keys, banjo, xylophone, whistles, electric guitar buzz, drums and God only knows what else. If there’s an instrument that Stevens can’t play, and can’t play well, I don’t think he’s met it yet. The amazing thing about Stevens’ production work here is that although he pulls out an incredible breadth of instrumentation, he manages to maintain a very consistent sound that comes across as minimalist rather than cluttered.
The big star here, however, is unquestionably Janes herself and her killer voice. Whether it’s the dreamy tone of “Guitar, Guitar,” the sultry jazz/experimental noise fusion of “Proposition,” the slow burn of “Honeybee,” the more straight ahead singer/songwriter approach of “Fall Down,” or the more balls out, killer instinct rock and roll flashes that appear on any number of tracks, Janes can leave you gaping in any number of ways. This girl’s got a set of pipes on her that can’t be beat and she’s not shy about showing them off. Luckily enough, she’s also got the solid songwriting hooks and instrumental skills to back the voice up.
As far as I know, this is her debut record (if not, I’d like to know about it) and it’s as poised and fully realized a debut as you’re ever likely to come across.
Written by Chris Brown.