Singer/songwriter Jess Klein's first album since her work with the 2002 supergroup Voices on the Verge is quite an enjoyable collection of songs.
Although born in and a current resident of New York State, Jess Klein emerged from the Boston music scene in the late 90s. Strawberry Lover is about her fifth album, but only her third to get widespread distribution. On the new album, Klein spreads her wings a little more, weaving a number of different stylistic approaches into a coherent whole.
The album kicks off with "Darkroom," an uptempo but covertly bleak song with a stop-start backing track reminiscent of 50s rock 'n' rollers like Jerry Lee Lewis. The song's narrator is trapped in what could be a literal or a metaphorical darkroom, and seeks a lover's rescue from dark thoughts.
Then Klein shifts gears into "Shonalee," an absolutely beautiful song about the latenight diner waitress of the song's title and the restaurant's jukebox. "Shonalee, gimme another quarter for the jukebox/It's my favorite song," Klein sings on the soaring chorus. "Come with me, when you hear the trumpet and the bass/Let it groove you all night long."
This diversity in styles sets the tone for the rest of the album. With the song "Office Girl," Klein fuses Motown elements with her usual sound, featuring Ronettes-style backing vocals on the chorus and a handclap-driven bridge. "Shootout at the Candy Shop" is a country rocker. "Soda Water" uses a
languid reggae beat.
But these various styles that Klein uses rarely overpowers their songs. She uses just a little hint or suggestion here and there to make her musical references and to give an added flavor. Mostly what you notice from track-to-track on the album is a progression of strong choruses and Klein's earnest
delivery as she sings them.
Fans will surely discuss amongst themselves whether Strawberry Lover is Klein best album to date. And rightfully so, for if it isn't, it's damn close.