CD Review: Jenny Owen Youngs

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Friday, May 22, 2009

JENNY OWEN YOUNGS "Transmitter Failure"

Kindred spirits: Kate Bush, Metric and Radiohead Show: Saturday with Jukebox the Ghost at the Rock and Roll Hotel. 9:30 p.m. 202-388-7625.

I can't remember the last time I heard a sophomore album that captured me the way "Transmitter Failure" by Jenny Owen Youngs does. Youngs's gently lush yet commanding voice often floats above pop/acoustic/soft rock music in such a way that the music wraps around the listener like a warm breeze. That's especially true when Youngs tells stories of despair such as in "Last Person," told from a barstool where she grimly stares out at others with "bloodless zombie eyes."

But don't think her music can't pack a punch. "Clean Break" and "Led to the Sea" are compelling examples of tunes in which she harnesses her voice for a heartier sound that mixes perfectly with the rougher guitar hooks and percussion. And just when you think you have Youngs's sound pegged, along comes a more acoustic, lilting song such as "No More Words."

It has been only two years since Youngs's debut, "Batten the Hatches," was released (featuring a song that was used on the Showtime series "Weeds"). Youngs's voice, style and passion seem to have matured tenfold in that time as evidenced by the sophisticated, heartfelt lyrics and thoughtfully structured music that has the listener dancing one minute and staring at the horizon the next.

-- Nancy Dunham

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