Two women named O. There’s a bit of a Tristan overlap between them on occasion but otherwise they’re doing their own thing and their things involve clever, sometimes moving lyrics and ever so subtle hooks. Get ready to file these new album acquisitions under ‘O.’
From the opening bars of Jenny O’s “God Knows Why” you know you are about to be immersed in something pretty cool. The subtle shuffle that drives the song along becomes utterly seductive with the added hook in the chorus. Check that constant undercurrent of synth holding everything together or the floating, competing, overlapping vocals in the bridge. What a tune! And that’s just the opener of Jenny O’s stunning 2020 album New Truth. From there the album shifts and shimmers through a rich variety of sonic hues. “I Don’t Want To Live Alone Anymore” sounds like Rilo Kiley fed through a Jon Brion filter. “Colour Love” has got a bit of Tristan meets Lana Del Rey. “What About That Day” has a country-folk Susan Jacks feel that appears to draw songwriting inspiration from Bill Withers in the chorus. “Not My Guy” stars off sounding like an early 1960s Crystals reinvention before breaking out into Go Go’s/Bangles territory in the chorus. I can hear echoes of Mary Lou Lord on the sprightly “Even If I Tried” and the folksy charm of Jane Siberry on “Seek Peace.” New Truth is an album of immense variety but one where the differences are cast more as subtle shading rather than distinct genre changes, leaving Jennifer Ognibene’s own unique contributions intact. Personal fave: “A Different Kind of Life.” Hard to beat to the finely structured melodic arc embedded here, even if it only runs about a minute long.
What is Amy Oelsner doing with her Amy O project? Is it freak folk? Highly-caffeinated singer songwriter? Rogue pop? Listening through her 2019 release Shell is like turning the pages of mixed up photo album, events and people and moods shift unpredictably. But oh so delightfully. “Shell” ushers us into Oelsner’s unique pop maelstrom, with hooks bouncing off curious instruments while the lyrics and delivery are reminiscent of Suzanne Vega. Then “Synethesia” has a spartan bounce, with alluring, occasional snatches of banjo, stripped-back lead guitar, and contrasting crunchy electric guitar chords. “Good Routines” starts all folky mellow but then picks up some nice chunky electric guitar chords and a load of smooth vocal melody lines. Comparisons come to mind as the songs go by: maybe Mo Kenny on “Planet Blue,” a bit of Tristan on “Zero,” and you can hear some of what Tamar Berk has been doing lately on “Loose Cassettes.” Then there’s work that sounds like nothing else, like the art-rock musical-ish “Shrinking” or the carefully crafted pop bliss of “Blueberries.” But my fave cut on the album is definitely “Later On.” Love the build on this track, the precise placement of various instrumental riffs, and the Vega and Jane Siberry feel to the vocals. Shell is great ride, musically adventurous and with lyrics that are oh so well written.
It looks like the O’s have it. Talent that is. And there’s even more new O material on the way. Visit Jenny O and Amy O online to further fill out the ‘O’ section of your music library.
Photo courtesy Swizzle Gallery.