album reviews

Jenny Owen Youngs
Batten the Hatches
Nettwerk (2007)

Thank goodness for television: It's likely due largely in part to the use of her song "[Expletive] Was I" on HBOShowtime's "Weeds" that Jenny Owen Youngs's 2005 self-released debut was reissued this year on Nettwerk. The song captures so much of what makes "Batten the Hatches" so delightful: Even as her sweet voice drips with relationship regret, her self-chastising comment, "What the [expletive] was I thinking?" seems more charming than accusatory, especially when paired with the song's swaying cello line.

The innocence in Youngs's voice only adds to her songs' honesty, from her breathy, Ani DiFranco-style confession of "Everyone I try to love won't hear of it" ("Drinking Song") to her dreamy musings on relationships on "Keys Out Lights On," which maintains its focus with a floating flugelhorn and subtle tabla beats. On "Voice on Tape," Youngs uses what should be just a cheesy gimmick -- a duet with an answering machine message -- as a cathartic post-breakup farewell.

Young's wounded-love theme might get a bit predictable after a while, but she varies her arrangements enough to keep from sounding monotonous: strings and Rhodes permeate the album, and she plays a rolling banjo on "P.S." But even without that instrumental help, Youngs's ability to sound lighthearted even when reflecting on her most painful moments is enough to keep "Hatches" breezy and enchanting.

-- Catherine P. Lewis

.: Originally published: The Washington Post: 17 August 2007, Page WE12
.: Batten the Hatches on