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NOW HEAR THIS 2004   Can’t figure out what to listen to? Listen to us. Once again, PopMatters’ music team presents a highly opinionated, undoubtedly superlative but ultimately revelatory examination of 18 artists that demand your attention. NOW.
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:: Best Singer-Songwriter to Give Your Ears and Unexpected Hug
JENNIFER O’CONNOR

Like some of the best singer-songwriters, Jennifer O’Connor takes simple, sturdy phrases and imbues them with a additional depth. What may seem obvious from a distance takes on a whole new power in the focus of her songs. Like a hug from out of nowhere, her best work wraps you up by surprise and fills you with welcome warmth. There’s a lot of sadness, too, but it’s balanced by a gratitude for life’s small miracles, usually those involving the power of our interactions with other people. When needed, her husky, powerful singing props up her sometimes emotionally frail lyrics and underscores her resolve. She hits all the right notes, both with her singing and guitar playing, and it lights up the songs’ dusky feelings. Her work communicates the belief in the perfect song; the song that reminds you or makes you look forward to, the song with that line that cuts right through to you, the song with the melody that you can’t resist.


There are lots of obvious influences, namely Elliott Smith, Mark Eitzel, and the Silver Jews, but again, like the best singer-songwriters she keeps working to learn from what moves her and to use that knowledge to further the development of her own voice. Her new album, due out towards the end of this year on New York’s newly founded Red Panda Records adds a full-band to expand on the sparser sounds of her previous releases (2000’s Truth, Love, and Work EP and a self-titled full length from 2002.) You can consistently see her perform in New York, Boston, and surrounding areas. Her previous tours have taken her the length of the East Coast, and as far as France and London, and have included shows opening for Kristin Hersh, Mark Eitzel, Shannon Wright, Thalia Zedek, and Saturday Looks Good to Me. Upon the new album’s release she’ll set off on her first tour to the West Coast. Live, there is an undeniable power to her music that has yet to be captured in the studio, which is understandable since it’s been almost two years since her last release and because which each performance, each new song, she seems to just keeping getting better, to keep getting closer and closer to achieving that perfect song for herself.


— Jon Langmead


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