Jenny Owen Youngs - An Unwavering Band of Light (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Jenny Owen Youngs

An Unwavering Band of Light (2012)


Jenny Owen Youngs' debut full-length Batten the Hatches showcased an array of downtrodden acoustic songs with ruminations on topics such as drinking too much and being an unlovable screw-up that guaranteed her a place in the hearts of sad bastard music fans everywhere and made her a staple of the Revival Tour. In the ensuing years, she's grown as a songwriter and carved out a sound that should push her far beyond the confines of that admittedly awesome niche. 2012's An Unwavering band of Light is her most confident and fully-realized work to date.

Tracks like "Pirates" and opener "Love For Long" are decidedly more upbeat, and just plain catchier than most of her prior work. However the cheerier sound masks lyrics just as brokenhearted anything in her back catalog. The former features lines like "You don't make me better but you don't make me worse / I'll keep coming back / Numb's no good, but it sure beats the hurt." The latter takes a somewhat pessimistic outlook on relationships, but strives to enjoy the good parts while they last. Conversely, "Your Apartment" has a less upbeat sound, but is a straightforward love song, lyrically speaking. This duality permeates throughout much of An Unwavering Band of Light.

Miss Youngs is obviously the star of the show here, but she has quite an impressive band backing her up. Elliot Jacobson absolutely punishes his drum kit and adds a layer of punk-like urgency to what could otherwise be more standard indie-pop fare, while the horn section utilized on tracks like the almost rockabilly "Born to Lose" and the aforementioned "Your Apartment" take the compositions to another level.

There's not a bad song to be found on An Unwavering Band of Light, although some tracks are noticeably better than others, and those standouts mostly appear on the album's first half. The biggest exception to this is "Already Gone," a simple, but fantastic breakup song that displays just how far JOY's vocals have come since the days of "Fuck Was I." The background oohs and ahs in the track's chorus are downright goosebump-inducing, as is most of An Unwavering Band of Light. The record as a whole is another step forward for Jenny Owen Youngs, and any fan of great, honest songwriting would do well to give it a spin.