Before even listening to a second of this album, one gets the impression that Jen Foster is going to deliver the goods. Looking like Melissa Etheridge just before she hit it big with Yes I Am, this Texas native grew up on a mix of her brothers’ influences like the Stones, Beatles, and everything else that composed ‘60s and ‘70s rock. But the first song that comes to the fore is more of an adult contemporary pop rock piano sound the likes of which Michelle Branch or Vanessa Carlton is currently delivering. On the title track, Foster’s vocals are huskier and a bit more blues-oriented in places, but it still comes off as unique. Unfortunately, the tone of the song doesn’t really kick the album off on a high note. Perhaps it deserves to be moved down in the tracklisting?
Thankfully Foster gets a bit heavier and, er, ballsier on the spacey pop sounds of “Used Black Cars”. The song ends up being a harder and grittier track that could draw comparisons with Vertical Horizon, Collective Soul, or Sarah McLachlan circa Surfacing—great and extremely tight. The mood moves from somber to uplifting and back throughout the song, resulting in it being more grandiose than it rightfully deserves to be. Foster tends to go all over the place musically, with “Superwoman” starting off like a folk pop song before the other instruments slowly seep in. “Do you even hear me?” she says as a nice guitar riff comes to the fore. The track could also bring an older Avril Lavigne or current Alanis to mind.
Foster is best when she mixes the slow stuff with a slightly up-tempo or mid-tempo flavor. This is evident on the strong “In Between Poses”, although it evokes an image of a road-weary musician trying to crack the big time. “For such a softie, you try so hard / You get so angry that you’re not a star”, she sings as an Edge-like guitar continues to soar with each verse. Foster also never goes too far into experimental territory, with safe yet pretty tunes like “Water in Your Hands” nicely crafted and melodic. What particularly stands out is the impressive “She” that Foster winds her gorgeous vocals around with the help of a mandolin in the distance. The song, which got her initial recognition in the John Lennon and Great American Songwriting competitions, is a steady and slightly groovy tune that never falls on its face.
“Seize the Moment”, which Foster got some help from in the form of Guess Who and BTO singer Randy Bachman, is possibly the rock song on the record, an urgent and crunchy ditty that Foster seems to play to her strengths. This follows nicely into another soft pop rock tune called “I Just Wanna Be Happy”, a summer-sounding tight track with backing harmonies. Foster sounds as if she’s listened to a lot of the Byrds for the second half of the record, with that ‘60s jangle shining on “Ready to Go”. Possibly the only drawback to the record is that there aren’t really any outstanding tracks, just a series of consistently good radio-friendly pop tunes. It takes too long to peter out, though, losing some of its polish.
The last few songs come off just a bit like filler, especially the sub-par and reflective “The One Who Got Away”, which basically goes through the motions of earlier tracks with far less conviction. “Sleeping” is possibly the sleeper of the record though, a soft and again relationship-based “goodbye”. Foster’s vocals and lyrics are very good for the most part, and the songs she has should have her on a label soon. If she could branch out just a bit more, though, she might find the experiment worthwhile.
// Notes from the Road
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