Jenny Owen Youngs : Transmitter Failure

Jeff Terich

As opening statements go, Jenny Owen Youngs’ 2005 debut album Batten the Hatches was a bold one. It wasn’t the loudest album, in fact, musically, it traced lines between indie folk, alt-country, pop and even a few tracks with a husky, Tom Waits quality. But when Youngs sings, she doesn’t hold back. Her voice can go from a breathy coo to a full-throated siren’s wail-indeed, it’s her greatest asset, tied with her acerbic wit and brutal honesty. It’s a rare talent that can make a minor hit out of a song that repeats the phrase “what the fuck was I thinking” about a dozen times.

On sophomore effort Transmitter Failure, however, Youngs actually has turned up the volume quite a bit. While Batten the Hatches certainly had energy, Transmitter Failure funnels that same pep through Marshall stacks, resulting in a great power pop album that still retains Youngs’ cleverness and melodic grace. The album’s first single “Led to the Sea” may come as a bit of a surprise to those fond of Youngs’ prior album; it opens with a distorted, super-catchy riff, backed by an unexpectedly heavy rhythm section. Yep, this song rocks.

While the album may get off to a somewhat explosive start, Youngs casts a wide net on Transmitter Failure, taking her sound from that song’s fuzzy melodicism to the fuzzy jangle of “Dissolve” to the softer, sweeter approach in “Here is a Heart.” A particular standout is the rollicking single “Clean Break,” which starts off with an old-timey strut before kicking the doors open into a barn burning, Old 97s-style rocker as Youngs compares the end of a relationship to a surgical procedure: “No need for anesthetic and no need for last regrets/ just sterilize the scalpel and let’s get this over with.” And though Youngs is formidable when she sounds most pissed off, she’s quite deft at crafting a stunningly beautiful and vulnerable song like “If I Didn’t Know” or “No More Words,” which is breathtaking in its glacial sophistication.

Youngs was off to a strong start with Batten the Hatches, but with Transmitter Failure has added even more depth behind her impressive songwriting. It’s a bigger, more powerful album, but one with the same vulnerability and wit that made her previous album unique. Transmitter Failure is an invigorating listen, a compelling next step from an artist whose gifts sound good both at their most bare and backed with an ample dose of distortion.

Similar Albums:
Rilo Kiley – More Adventurous
Regina Spektor – Begin to Hope
Laura Veirs – Saltbreakers

Video: “Clean Break”

Download at Jenny Owen Youngs - Transmitter Failure (Bonus Track Version)

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