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Liz Janes

Say Goodbye

Rating: 2.6/5.0

Label: Asthmatic Kitty

Why so serious, Liz Janes? You have a lovely singing voice, a crack back-up band and decent songwriting. In fact, this album is your most soulful work yet. So why does Say Goodbye lack so much fire? Granted, you’re a singer-songwriter – not the most head-banging group to be associated with – but to make a soul record with no soul just doesn’t seem to make sense.

Though, chastising Janes for soullessness on her record might not be fair – she’s not James Brown, after all. And the “soul’ she presents is certainly nothing out of Stax; Janes’ version is her own twee concoction made up of soft jazz and Americana, floating through a delicate fog with only her lilting soprano to guide it. Dusty In Memphis it’s not, but Say Goodbye just doesn’t make enough of an impact to forge its own path into the realm of blue-eyed soul. It is pleasant, affable and entirely inconsequential.

The problem with Say Goodbye is that most of it is entirely too delicate. The songs feel fragile and breakable, and Janes’ muted delivery does little in the way of putting any meat on those bones. What’s funny is that anchors are kind of a central theme on Say Goodbye; the album art features a drawing of an anchor, and if that doesn’t get the point across, there’s even a song called “Anchor,” in which Janes laments, “No one’s there to anchor me.” This lack of weight isn’t helped by Janes’ vulnerable lyrics, which reveal a woman scared to be alone. “Who will take care of me?” she asks repeatedly on “Who Will Take Care.” “I feel like I’m falling into a black hole.”

All this is a crying shame, because when Janes lets her hair down a bit, she sparkles like a diamond. The sultry, honky-tonk “Firefly” lets her finally play the vixen and if the enthusiasm in her voice is any indication, being bad is a hell of a lot more fun than being good. She never sounds more passionate on Say Goodbye than on “Trees,” where she finally lets her beautiful voice rip while being backed by a sweet mariachi horn section. And, though interludes are for the most part tedious, “Tincture 1” and “Tincture 2” let her have some fun with wordplay, stringing together nonsense lines like, “A fraction/ Contraction/ Mutation/ Elation,” which she sings with the determined seriousness of a schoolgirl choir.

Say Goodbye certainly has a niche; it would be lovely background music to a very adult dinner party, or could even work as a lullaby album for hipster babies. But that’s the thing about lullabies – they’re meant to put you to sleep. Hopefully on her next go-round, Janes will instead be determinedly bent on keeping us awake.

by Ashley Thiry

Key Tracks: Anchor, Firefly, Trees

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