Jenny Toomey

Antidote

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It would be an understatement to say that the wait was worth it. Jenny Toomey's Antidote, her first release of major significance since Tsunami's A Brilliant Mistake from 1997, isn't just a welcome return; its greatness, spread across four sides (or two CDs), all but sets a new standard for indie rock and chamber pop. Categorizing Antidote as a double record about a faltering relationship is misleading -- it contains none of the baggage-dumping and stifling self-absorption that the phrase implies. Toomey also appears to have knocked down any remaining walls in her songwriting, writing from the gut more than ever and allowing for the listener to get closer. This could be attributed to a significant widening of her listening tastes; there's little doubt that she's devoured plenty of soul, jazz, and classic pop records since Tsunami's end -- notice the similarity of structure between some of the songs here and the faithful (and beautiful) rendition of Curtis Mayfield's "Fool for You" for evidence. Two discs consisting of eight songs apiece separate the recording locales and the personnel, but certainly not the consistency of material (none of these 16 songs are merely taking up space). The Chicago half, produced with the Pulsars' David Trumfio, benefits from an all-star backup team behind Toomey; the Nashville half, recorded with Lambchop and gospel/country producer Mark Nevers, features support from several members of Lambchop. The two discs have different personalities, but play excessively well back-to-back, employing plenty of piano, strings, pedal steel, and horns that figure prominently rather than add mere ornamentation to the arrangements. The gent who inspired Toomey to write these songs should be thanked and thumped. Something great has certainly come from Toomey's pain, but whew -- what a dork.

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