Liz Janes Say Goodbye
It can be hard to tell whether Liz Janes benefits or suffers from her association with Sufjan Stevens. Her 2002 debut, Done Gone Fire, was a rough batch of art-folk tunes sculpted in post-production by Stevens, and since then, she’s remained under the wing of his Asthmatic Kitty imprint. But with her third full-length, Say Goodbye, Janes has truly broken through with a definitive statement. As statements go, though, it's a sketchy one. Ditching the avant-Americana clatter of 2004’s Poison & Snakes, Say Goodbye steeps itself in pop-jazz shimmer and an immaculate musicality that only occasionally shoots for any sort of height. That said, Janes makes charming wallpaper; the album cites soul music as an inspiration, and while that isn’t immediately obvious in its crystalline precision and breathy vibe, songs like “Bitty Thing” evoke the sparse introspection of Stevie Wonder’s Fulfillingness’ First Finale—filtered, that is, through the few accessible spaces of Joni Mitchell’s Don Juan’s Reckless Daughter. There are random flashes of disjointed multi-instrumentalism and jittery electronics on “Trees”—sounds that point directly to Stevens—but overall, Janes winds up resembling a squeaky, arty Norah Jones. The way she pulls off such a potentially off-putting formula is a testament to her grace, ambition, and charisma—though not necessarily her taste.