Liz Janes

Videos by American Songwriter

Photo: Polina Osherov

Liz Janes wanted to make a soul record, but mostly Say Goodbye sounds as if it’s under the influence of the jazz clubs Janes used to sneak into in Philly. Album opener “I Don’t Believe” has a clunky R&B drum beat, Rhodes and vibes, and Janes doing a little bit of Billie or Ella pillow talk. It achieves a certain sensuality, even if it has to work really hard at it. “Bitty Thing” is like a nursery rhyme version of those albums Sinatra did with Jobim in the ’50s. “Why is every little bitty thing falling apart?” Janes asks, harmonizing with herself. On “Trees,” Janes works her range, dropping melismas like a true pop/R&B singer. Interestingly, though, the production is all about the underlying electronic bleeps and blips. The band tries out a little “We Are The World”-style group hug as “Trees” picks up steam, but even with a funky rhythm guitar, it’s a little heavy-handed: “We are just creatures/ We have been created.” Things get weirder still when a New Orleans horn arrangement pokes its head into the mix. The song picks about five different directions to go in – you’re sure to like one of them (if not all of them). In a lot of ways, Sufjan Stevens – who runs Asthmatic Kitty and produced Janes’ first album for the label – seems to be an invisible guiding light over Janes work – the singer-songwriter grappling with the spiritual world, mixing traditional and experimental.

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