In some ways, the way Jenny Owen Youngs went about getting the ball rolling for her third album is so modern, charming and honest, it’s almost perfect. In July of 2010, wanting to keep control of her own work and make a record on her own terms, she contacted her fans about the Kickstarter campaign she has just begun, aimed at raising the funds for making An Unwavering Band Of Light. Within 28 hours, the $20, 000 target was achieved, and she went on to raise 38 grand within just a few weeks. It’s all the more impressive if you consider that Jenny’s nowhere near rolling in cash, self-released her first album Batten The Hatches and doesn’t have a label behind her to speak of at all. Even better is what started as a simple request from fans has helped to create the best work of her career.
Sure, JOY’s always been able to marry up thoughtful, smart, poppy tunes based around her acoustic, and as recently as last album Transmitter Failure, that’s taken on more of a rockin’ full-band approach. Still, every aspect of her work is more streamlined and focussed here. The uplifting, jaunty numbers like Love For Long and soaring closer Wake Up over up an almost illegal level of catchiness, the reflective fragility of the acoustic O God and piano-led So Long find new heartstrings to tug on and there’s even room for the angular, volume and Russian-tinged horns of Sleep Machine.
Perhaps the best thing you can say about this record is that it doesn’t sound like a penny of the money raised has been wasted; fair play to the lady in question as she’s surrounded herself with great musicians who play everything with effortless ease. It makes the energetic rhythms on the sugar-rush of Pirates or the insanely catchy whistled melody of Why You Fall stand out even more (seriously, that melody will burrow it’s way into your brain with the guile of an angry shark). Lyrically, it deals very openly with sticky situations of the heart, specifically their pitfalls and occasional futility, but it’s done in such a way that it doesn’t feel forced, and thankfully, massively contrived. “We make the most of the love we got, cos it won’t be love for long;” as an introductory chorus, it’s hardly swimming in aimless positivity but it’s honest, and it’s backed up by a ridiculously catchy and jaunty melody.
If this is the first you’re hearing of Jenny Owen Youngs then you’ll find instant evidence on An Unwavering Band Of Light as to why her fans responded so quickly and impressively to her call for assistance. It’s well written, varied and genuinely great to listen to. And what a note to an industry that we’re constantly told is in trouble that a singer/songwriter is able to ask the fans that buy her albums and go to her shows to fund the making of a record they were always going to get anyway.