-- By Eric J. Lawrence
The pop music cycles turn endlessly, bringing things that once might have fallen out of fashion back into the spotlight. For example, we seem to be in a moment of revival for the mid-70s easy-going Southern Californian sounds typified by the Buckingham/Nicks era of Fleetwood Mac. (Heck, even the Mac themselves are back with new songs & a tour on the horizon!) Nothing wrong with that, if it can be done without resorting to pastiche. Local favorite Jenny O. gets it, and she perfectly captures that smooth, but emotionally fraught vibe and updates it for a new millennium on her debut full-length album, Automechanic.
She has welcome assistance from producer Jonathan Wilson, himself responsible for much of the echoes of the Laurel Canyon era that have permeated much of the singer/songwriter product of the last few years. But Jenny never settles for nostalgia, offering up songs that manage to sound like the work of an artist documenting the trials and tribulations of relocating cross-country (from her Long Island hometown to LA) to make her place in the sunny climes of SoCal. Obvious models such as Stevie Nicks and Harry Nilsson rattle around songs like “Lazy Jane” and “Hey Neighbor,” whereas tracks like “Come Get Me” and “Learned My Lessons” are undeniably products of an artist living in the moment. And lest you think all Jenny’s touchstones are all over 30 years old, she invokes the spirit of Harriet Wheeler of 90s alt-rock favorites The Sundays on the sweetly melancholic “Get Lost” and “Dope Van Gogh.” It’s a solid piece of self-expression, an album’s length exploration that judiciously takes the past and makes it fresh again. It sounds like she’s merely getting started, and thus KCRW is proud to be offering an exclusive advance listen to such a terrific debut album.