Jill Cohn: Seven Year Surrender

Ben Rubenstein

The kind of album that can make even the most hardened cynic think twice before issuing judgment.

Jill Cohn

Seven Year Surrender

Label: Box o' Beanies
US Release Date: 2005-07-12
UK Release Date: Available as import
Amazon affiliate

I wasn't going to review this CD. Mostly because I felt I couldn't give it a fair shake, due to my basic hatred of this type of folky, piano-dominated music. It'd be like asking me to review a hardcore metal CD -- I simply can't tell what's good and what's not. But for some reason, I decided, what the hell, I'll pop it in as background music and see what happens.

What I'm about to tell you stays here. I can't have my reputation sullied just because I enjoyed one female singer-songwriter with an honest streak. That said, Seven Year Surrender simply isn't as bad as I had thought it would be. Even when you're not trying to listen too hard, the melodies end up lodged in your brain, and Jill Cohn's easygoing, sincere voice at turns haunts and inspires. Maybe that's the trick -- don't listen too hard.

I'm not saying I'm going to listen to this disc obsessively, or even at all. It's definitely not going on my iPod, if only for fear that it will come up during an embarrassing shuffle experience. But as accompaniment to my mid-morning food scrounging and lounging around in my underwear, it's something of a revelation. I feel like I must have heard this woman's songs before, but I see from the briefing material that she continues to be an underappreciated artist, even after nearly a decade of touring. And I'm pretty sure, unless I was knocked unconscious and dragged there, I haven't been present at Lillith Fair to watch her play (note: I don't know if she's actually been there). Aha! Some of her older songs were featured on Dawson's Creek, seasons two and three! In fact, I do hear a lot of Paula Cole in her. I mean, not that I watch that show. Not since Joey started dating Pacey, that smug son of a bitch. OK, on to the review.

Picking up steam by the third song, "Never Going Back", Seven Year Surrender maintains a solid mellow groove throughout, relying frugally on Cohn's voice, piano, and guitar for much of the running time. "Blind Date" startles with an addition of ethereal bells, mournful horns, and what sounds like electronic accompaniment -- maybe, to Jill Cohn fans, this is akin to Dylan's Newport Festival performance (I don't want to scare anyone here, but the final "hidden" track is entitled, "Blind Date -- Almutes Rap Version"). "Good Citizen" makes me think of what Sheryl Crow might sound like with a little more religion and perspective, and "Come on Home" would be perfect for a road trip with my mother, who would probably be obsessively asking if I had a girlfriend yet. Those are just some of the highlights.

If you already have some inclination towards this type of music, I'd suggest you pick up this album. You probably won't be disappointed. If, on the other hand, you're like me, and have become impossibly cynical and closed-off to this simplistic, earnest style of music-making, you might want to pass it by. Like I did. I refused to even listen to it. Um, remember?

"'Cause I'm never going back to emotional hell, say goodbye aye aye aye, doo doo doo doo doo doo doo dooooo...."


In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Keep reading... Show less

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less

A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

Keep reading... Show less

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.