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INDIE ROUND-UP for July 14 2005

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This special Bastille Day edition of the Indie Round-Up comes to you from my own prison cell of the mind. Fortunately there is music. But will there be fireworks? Read on. It’s brief – there’s only one CD review. (Got a couple of others but they were too uninspiring to write about. Also the air here in New York City is like thick soup these days; it takes musical sounds a long time to penetrate through it to your ears.)

(ABBREVIATED) INDIE ROUND-UP for July 14 2005

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Jodelle, The Adventures of Jodelle

Dimwit that I am, I persist in hoping for something new and different, sometime, from some piano-based female singer-songwriter somewhere.

Jodelle’s CD packaging, with the singer cast as the comic strip character of the same name, seems to promise something urbanely witty, or at least enjoyably over-the-top. Instead it’s dense, earnest, fairly standard singer-songwriter fare, with a sensibility more Kate Bush than Tori Amos, more Paula Cole than Evanescence (except for the rocking “Rabbit Cage.”)

So, within that context, how does the CD stack up? Jodelle has a knack for dramatic, velvety piano themes with interesting voicings. Her best lyrics draw vivid pictures of wandering souls and lost worlds, as in “Messenger”:

Big eyes, thin legs
Your arms bent to beg
I don’t understand what you said
You don’t talk like me you’re different in the head
Old Indian spirit
On the decline…
You’re weighing on branches
You’re praying for answers in the wind
Blending in silence
Sending enemies signs

Other songs address more concrete matters. “Stick Figure” makes a strong statement about women’s body image, and “Happy Song” speaks with authority about the artistic temperament.

The full-bodied arrangements include tasteful strings, solid keyboard work from the artist, and a good supporting band. But Jodelle’s voice, at least as recorded here, has a closed-up, tight quality that makes the lyrics often seem disconnected from the melodies, and sometimes hard to understand. A singer with a limited instrument needs to be recorded just so. Even more important – especially with heavy orchestration – she needs an appropriate mix that puts her voice up front and shows it in its best light. Jodelle gets neither here. In fact, to be fair, it’s a little hard to even tell from this CD how good a singer she is or isn’t.

As for the songs, lyrics aside, many of them are closer to art pieces than pop tunes. In these, what stays with the listener is not the melodies but the overall sound, in which, for the most part, the voice is more a part of the scenery than foreground focus. Escaping this tendency are the memorable, wordless refrain of “Happy Song,” the guitar-heavy “Rabbit Cage” and, especially, the excellent and hooky “All Save One,” on the strength of which I can give this CD a qualified recommendation.

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IN OTHER NEWS…

Item! Although I won’t review a CD on which I’m credited in the Thank-Yous, I can certainly mention singer-songwriter, guitarist and producer extraordinaire Denise Barbarita’s new release entitled Chaos and Congeniality. You can read my review of her previous CD here (you must scroll down), and pick up the new one through the Amazon.com link below.

Item! I’m going to bed.

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About Jon Sobel

Jon Sobel is an Executive Editor of Blogcritics as well as lead editor of the Culture & Society section. As a writer he contributes most often to Culture, where he reviews NYC theater; he also covers interesting music releases. He writes the blog Park Odyssey, for which he is visiting and blogging every park in New York City—over a thousand of them. Through Oren Hope Marketing and Copywriting you can hire him to write or edit whatever marketing or journalistic materials your heart desires. By night he's a working musician: lead singer, songwriter, and bass player for Whisperado, a member of other bands as well, and a sideman.