You would be fully within your rights the first time you heard Jem -- most likely either the jaunty "Wish I" on a commercial for Song Airlines, the vaguely sinister "Come On Closer" in literal-minded ads for Mike Nichols's Closer or the radio-ready "They," with its choir hook seemingly sampled from Hogwarts Wishes You A Magical, Madrigal Christmas -- to presume that you were listening to Dido. After all, both surname-dropping, slightly-peculiar-first-name-having singers offer the same sort of breathy, mildly (if pleasantly) dopey sensitiva-with-a-drum-loop trip-pop rush. There are a couple of differences between the two, though. For one thing, Jem's a brunette. And, as borne out by her last name, "Griffiths," she's Welsh.
And that's all I've got. Enjoy. (MH)
(ATO Records -- 157 Chambers St., 12th fl, New York, NY. 10007; http://www.atorecords.com/; Jem -- http://www.jem-music.net/)
Jets to Brazil
Let me just say right up front that I wasn't one of the indie-fanboys that went pee-pee all over themselves when Jets to Brazil's first album, Orange Rhyming Dictionary, came out. I was actually pretty non-plussed by that effort, to be perfectly frank -- I would elaborate, but I'm sure you can find my review in the archives here somewhere. Anyway, even though I didn't like their first album, I decided to give the Jets another try (since I loved previous bands Jawbreaker, Texas Is The Reason, and Handsome, the members have a line of credit with me) with Four Cornered Night, and I must say, I dug the hell out of that album.
So, here we are at Jets to Brazil's third release, Perfecting Loneliness, and I have to say that it falls firmly between the other two releases on my scale. I don't totally dislike Perfecting Loneliness, but I have to say that it's not as good as Four Cornered Night. With this album, the Jets have delivered their most melancholy piece to date, and while you definitely get the sensation that the band has finally coalesced into a real "band," with the arrangements and such, you'll find little of the energy that permeated each of JTB's previous offerings. The first track, "The Frequency," might lead you to believe that there is indeed rock to be had on the horizon, but that's pretty much all the "rock" you're going to get for the duration of the album.
The press for Perfecting Loneliness points out that frontman Blake Schwarzenbach wrote most of this album in wooded isolation, and that's exactly what it sounds like. Moody, introspective, mellow, and smart (old Blake always has had a way with the words, and he's in top form here), but you can kiss the punk influences goodbye for this one. With all that said, however, it's still an okay listen, as long as you're not making a long drive at night or anything. (MHo)
(Jade Tree Records -- 2310 Kennwynn Rd., Wilmington, DE. 19810; http://www.jadetree.com/)