Jana Hunter There’s No Home

[Gnomonsong; 2007]

Rating: 5

Styles: folk, country, blues, singer-songwriter, ballads, rock
Others: Fuck, Sybille Baier, Wooden Wand, Vetiver, Nina Nastasia

Sometimes a song settles in the brain just so, regardless of what kind of reservations we are bringing to the table. When an album has you at hello (like Person Pitch, for example) there is the temptation to think that the spell will wear off. To safe-guard oneself against a hang-over, we set the thing down for awhile. Rather than putting on the album on we're depressed, we wait till we're properly contented to safeguard against negatively colored reactions. Well, I've gone through this with There's No Home, and somehow the album rises above whatever kind of sludge my brain happens to be stuck in. And its not because the album is transcending of mood, it's just that it's so perfectly alive. Even when the songs are not engaging you on an emotional level, you feel perfectly at home in them.

Hunter's previous record (Blank Unstaring Heirs of Doom), was a diverse album due to it being made up of years worth of scattered recordings. Some of the songs were revelatory (Golden Apples of the Sun featured "Farm, Ca," "The Angle" and "Heatseaker's Safety Den") and some just fair, but it wasn't hard to see the innate promise. That sad, dusty voice had thrills and chills in store whenever you needed 'em. But this album, while sharing Blank Unstaring's diversity, is more effortlessly charming with its pure simplicity than I ever could've hoped. There's never the sense that Hunter is reaching in her performances. And the melodic progressions, though perhaps fairly well-mined, feel perfectly timeless. Not so much in the typical rock journalist sense of the word. It's timeless in a way that stops time (along with your inner critic) dead.

There are no bad songs on here, and nothing but surprises. Plain old pop jangle is done with such loose and spirited aplomb and a sort of cruddy-thuddy playing style, glowing tunes that ought to be generic. Blissfully soft-sad harmonies drop straight into your heartslot gold dusted tokens. Sing-a-long song and it isn't annoying! Due to the relative sunniness of its preceding tracks, I would never have foreseen something like "Pinnacle" -- a dark, swimmy crawler that makes its two-and-a-half minutes seem like a pretty little eternity. The wonderfully Unwound-esque "Recess" has the most disorientingly abrupt breakdown I've ever heard in a song so lugubrious. And the blithe K.D. Lang sashaying of "Vultures" would just be another contextual oddity were it not for its perfect, idling restraint. It's that perfect type of piqued use of space and inflection that artists like Feist and M. Ward have often shown, when matched with some equally keen level of song-craft, works wonders.

Forget best album of 2007 so far -- this is one of the best post-2000 albums these ears have yet encountered. Jana Hunter, and this album in particular, should in no way be underestimated (keep an eye peeled for material from her new band, Jracula). There's No Home has got something. And the less you let yourself balk at the immediacy of its surface charms, the more you will nestle to and imbibe its dire and fancy-free (im)perfection.

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