In 1995, one popular song and video on the airwaves was "I Kissed A Girl" by up-and-coming singer/songwriter Jill Sobule. Sobule's ability to address difficult or controversial topics with wit and irony became her trademark, but by the end of the '90s, the tide had turned and the American pop music ear was no longer interested in the female singer/songwriters that had, for a brief while, dominated the pop charts. Two major labels and two now-defunct independent labels later, Sobule is still writing and performing music, and rather than trying to go down the record label route again, she enlisted the aid of her fans to produce, distribute, and promote her new album, California Years.
Sobule's creativity has not faltered in the past 15 years, and she continues to create vivid characters and cinematic scenes. California Years is full of heroes and anti-heroes, stories of love and tragedy, and the occasional knife twist. My favorite song ("Nothing To Prove") is an entertaining critique of the music industry and the young starlets it creates and then drops when their popularity wanes, which seems particularly poignant, considering her own rise and fall. Another favorite is "Wendell Lee," which is likely to strike a chord with 20- and 30-somethings making their way onto online social networks, reconnecting with old friends and old flames. She tackles serious topics as well, often obliquely, as with her sing-along commentary on the US healthcare system ("Mexican Pharmacy").
While ultimately an acoustic singer/songwriter work, the songs on California Years remain fresh and distinctive. This is Sobule's "fuck you" to anyone who has written her off. Armed with a guitar and pen, she proves once again than she's a talented and skilled musician. Whether or not she'll ever be a mainstream American pop music darling again, Sobule is forging ahead with determination.
Went to the desert / On a mission / To have a vision / Or write a song / I left real early / I left my cell phone / I took the Prius / It gets good mileage / Something's gonna happen / To change my world –"Palm Springs"