Iíve been putting off this review for a couple of weeks now. I was thinking, all of this time, that Jenni would turn out to be bland Ė another pretty girl with a bad habit of playing guitar. 1.76 songs into The Fourth EP, her debut out on Clickpop Records, Jenni convinced me that she is not talentless or boring. A mere 20 or so years old, Jenni Potts makes music that proves to be much more elegant and sincere than her years display. The Fourth does it all right Ė itís pensive and pertinent; itís slightly ambient, but jagged with rock girl mentality. Jenni has been through a lot, and you feel it in every croon of her voice. It seems as if all her anger, frustration, past tragedies, and depression are the fabric of this heartfelt unveiling.
The first track, “The Fourth”, alludes to the date of her first suicide attempt and the due date of a baby she miscarried. It is clear that she isnít trying this music thing on for size, but is groping for some clarity and peace, and this music is a product of that. She tells her tales with the power of Neko Case and the sensitivity of Cat Power. Complimented on this EP by pedal steel, vibraphone and cello, among other instruments, Jenni swoops in telling her tales of misery, mistakes and what could have been. Though she is young, her yearning message is universal. Just as Michael Stipe so knowingly said, “Everybody hurts sometimes”.
Channeling the sometimes cerebral and always angry Ani Difranco on the second track, “Friends”, Jenni talks about the painful result of a friendship turned relationship, and the ruin that follows. Her voice, and the absolute control she has over it, holds so much promise. The accompanying vibraphone adds a lot to this slow piano-driven track, conjuring a chilly Fiona Apple. “See Home” starts very similarly as “Friends” but is backed by simplistic, and slightly radio-rockish, percussion. This track is just a bit too short, and the shortest on the EP at 2:36. It feels like filler, or like an intro to a song that sounds just like it.
Jenni plays an unaccompanied acoustic guitar on “Goodnos”. Her vocals are lilting and sparse, like Chan Marshall, but more authentic in their despair. A sparkling pop sensibility isn’t what Jenni specializes in. She is sad, angry, bitter and she’s showing it. “April” and “Tunnel City” follow in suit, with Michael Harris jumping in duet-style on vocals for “Tunnel City”. Sometimes the poppy drums and tawdry fills make it seem like a fitting favorite on your Mom’s radio station back home, but the intensity in her voice betrays that genre all together. There is more going on here, her heart is breaking in every song.
Jenni is definitely consistent in her sound… maybe too consistent. The songs all flow together and her delivery is silky smooth, but in an album of work, even one as short as an EP, you have to have a bit of variety. A high to the low, some sugar and some spice. Through all this Jenni uses her music as a tool to hash things out, and in the process reveals to us what is sometimes the hardest thing to let people see – who we really are. Jenni Potts will have a career in music, just as long as she is still feeling, hurting, searching and singing.
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