s I'm Not As Good At It As You (CD, £11.50)label: Own Records
Show-goers who witnessed Jenn Ghetto making her solo debut as S in Seattle a decade ago were almost as emotionally involved in her performance that night as she was. It was well-known among the gathered crowd that the songs Ghetto was to play weren't really ever meant to have been heard publicly. This was material the former Carissa's Wierd singer had written quietly, and recorded privately, over a period of two years on a four-track in her bedroom. The club was pin-drop quiet that night, and the crowd hung on her every note and word as a visibly shaking Ghetto (who often broke out in nervous laughter mid-tune) stood alone on stage with her guitar and delivered an exquisite set, each song raw in inspiration and highlighted by turbulent tempo changes and complex structures. On a friend's label, Ghetto soon released an album of those fated four-track recordings called Sadstyle. It was critically-acclaimed, and sold out quickly. Her sporadic live performances were always packed and her fans — international and devoted — had to wait four years for the next S record, entitled Puking and Crying. Released in 2004, it was a stark difference in sound from that of Sadstyle. S had evolved into a three-piece featuring Austin transplant Josh Wackerly, as well as Ghetto's bandmate in her speed-metal (yes!) side-project, Crictor, drummer Creighton Barrett (now of Band Of Horses). S played a handful of shows on the heels of Puking and Crying, and Ghetto then put down the guitar, thinking that would be her last record. Five years later this new S album is released on the Luxembourg-based label Own Records. Much like Sadstyle, the songs are deceptively sparse, though Ghetto's breathy vocals are often layered with achingly-beautiful harmonies. The multi-directional guitar lines and breakneck tempo changes are again in effect, but it's the maturity of the songwriting as a whole that makes this collection stand out from its predecessors. The songs are classic S, shining with Ghetto's singular ability to write lyrics that are devastating in their honesty and unfettered in their elegance. The issue of relationships, and whether they should be cultivated or abandoned (be they with people or substances), is the prevailing theme of a smart, artfully-crafted album.
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