Jenny Owen Youngs – Batten the Hatches

owenyoungscd.jpgA CD Review

Her fragile voice sits somewhere between Norah Jones and a twanged-out Beth Orton, but the similarities end there. Jenny Owen Youngs delivers a sweetly subversive concoction of modern alienation, romantic ennui and deliciously infectious hooks.

Youngs explores technology’s hold on human interaction from a variety of angles. “Voice On Tape” uses answering machine clips to probe the disconnected world of voicemail and instant messages (“you say that I don’t have this down/but I’ve been practicing out loud”). “P.S.” imagines life as television, prerecorded and edited:” I don’t want to watch anything that hurts.”

“Drinking Song” and “F*ck Was I” are rich with the kind of good-natured self-deprecation that would sound like self-loathing in other hands. Dan Romer’s soft touch, lo-fi production is spot on, giving Youngs’ many subtle elements plenty of room to breathe. Romer and fellow Fireflies member Adam Christgau also play on most of the tracks.

There’s not a wasted moment here, from the staccato noodling on “Porchrail” that starts “Batten the Hatches” to “Keys Out Lights On,” the album’s dreamy closer, where Youngs states with wry hope, “I got so much stowed away down there.”

Youngs released this (her debut CD) independently last year. In early 2007 Nettwerk Records, home to Sarah McLachlan and Barenaked Ladies, picked it up for wider distribution. Hopefully, this major label push will give Jenny Owen Youngs the larger audience she so richly deserves.