Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Songwriter Jenny Owen Youngs talks new album, plays Milestone Saturday

Former Avail frontman Tim Barry and up and coming singer-songwriter Jenny Owen Youngs play the Milestone (3400 Tuckaseegee Rd.) Saturday, April 30th with Charlotte’s Pullman Strike (8 p.m., $8). Barry fronted one of my very favorite punk bands. Avail was my go-to wake-me-up when I had to open the coffee shop at 5 a.m. and remains a go-to pick-me-up when I’m frustrated or angry. His working class storyteller approach to songwriting translates well to a stripped down acoustic setting.

Youngs is a more recent favorite. The more I find out about her, the more I think she’s a kindred spirit. She loves "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" (Darkhorse Comics put her in an ad for the "BTVS" comics) and she appreciates bad movies! Before I knew those things I'd discovered her catchy folk-pop songs, her sense of humor and a sweet voice that is capable of tackling pretty much anything as she’s proven with unexpected covers. She approaches Nelly’s “Hot in Herre” with a balance of irony and seriousness and the video is adorable. She reminds me at times of a younger Aimee Mann. Her pop-rock and folk-pop originals are good and at times great. I've put "Last Person" and "Led to the Sea" on my kid's iPod mixes (which inevitably become family favorites).

Youngs is working on her next album with producer Dan Romer. She had the following to say about the upcoming release, which she hopes to release early next fall.

"I’ve been pretty freaking excited about it. I can see the end of the tunnel. Things are starting to sound like songs. We just had a horn session and a strings session. I'm super pumped about that. The players were phenomenal. Dan is a great arranger and on top of that picks players who have been playing with each other for a long time and have a wide skill set.

"Dan and I tried to approach this record in a few ways that are new and with a renewed commitment to certain objectives. We have a really heavy focus on dirty percussion. We’ve been going through a lot of antique woodblocks. We built this thing, the tambour-drum - a 50 gallon metal oil drum with a tambourine loose on top of it. You can get the weird metal sound out of the drum and the tambourine has that weird rattle to it.

"I'm trying to sing better (too). We’re trying to make the record less like a record that has been tediously put together and more natural. I think a lot of the songs will imply or show that I'm a little bit happier, which is nice. Although I’ve thought similar things in the past and have been proven wrong by listeners. I’ve also done a lot more speculative songwriting as well. There’s one song that’s kind of about volcano sacrifice and one about electro convulsive therapy. Another is about this kid during the Jonestown Massacre. There were a couple of people who weren’t killed. One had his hearing aid turned off. One boy hid in the woods and the song is about him coming out of the woods and seeing 900 dead bodies. It can’t just be about love and heartbreak all the time. I wanted to apply my love of reading to the lyrics."

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