Jill Sobule

Pink Pearl

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Folk-pop singer Sobule's fourth album, and first for the indie Beyond label, isn't a radical change in direction; her airy, hypnotically intriguing little girl voice, floating melodies, and incisive, often droll lyrics are all similar to previous work. But there's subtlety and craftsmanship at work here, especially in the album's inspired production, which kicks these 12 songs up a notch, framing each of them in sympathetic, dazzling, often elaborate arrangements, which smartly underscore the artist's melodies. Inspired by songsmith craftsmen like Ray Davies and Elvis Costello, Sobule's perceptive lyrics tell vivid mini-dramas of everyday folks. "Rock Me to Sleep," the album's only unaccompanied song, perfectly portrays the protagonist's lonely life by describing her bedroom as "the book on the bedstand, the little TV, the drink and the ashtray." Other tracks explore details of the "Loveless Motel" with pictures of Billie Ray Cyrus and Ernest Borgnine on the wall and "Mary Kay," a teacher who becomes pregnant and runs away with one of her students. But even if you don't bother with the eloquent yet understated lyrics, Sobule's melodies and savvy knack for incorporating everything from sunny-style '60s Brit-pop complete with Mellotron, tympani, and tubular bells on "Rainy Day Parade" to Beatles-style instrumentation (check out the "Fool on the Hill" recorder, "Eleanor Rigby" string quartet, and even Byrds-ish guitar break on "Lucy at the Gym") will impress. Vocally her soft, plaintive yet bold voice falls between Suzanne Vega and Rickie Lee Jones, but it is less affected and more natural. With Pink Pearl (named after the common pencil eraser), Jill Sobule has proven that she's no one-hit novelty fluke. This album brims with imagination and talent and proves there's more to her than just another pretty voice.

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