(Kill Rock Stars
By Rob Levy
You’ll know Jeff Hanson when you hear him. His voice is an unmistakable falsetto that can’t be aptly described as anything else but moving. There simply isn’t another voice like it today. You hate to say that he sings like a girl, but he does, and with powerful results.
The St. Paul, Minnesota singer/songwriter cut his teeth in the emo band M.I.J. before setting aside his electric guitar in favor of the more genteel acoustic guitar found on his powerful solo debut,Son in 2003. That release caught the eye of critics giving them a glimpse behind the veneer to see Jeff Hanson for more than just his voice.
Hanson’s self-titled latest effort picks up where Son left of. Hanson’s falsetto is joined by dark, sobering lyrics that recall Elliott Smith’s darker moments. A talented wordsmith, Hanson establishes the tone of the record right from the start with the melancholy opener, “Losing a Year”. What follows is a tightly packed album of intense emotion and lyricism that both connects and devastates. Hanson takes his acoustic guitar and wraps it in strings and of course, that voice to create a powerful listening experience.
From the opening drippiness of “Now We Know”, to the heart wrenching “I Just Don’t Believe You”, “Let You Out” and “Someone Else”, we know what has become of the broken hearted. Hanson’s superlative lyrics and stirring melodies have a way of getting working themselves under your skin and moving you. There are traces of John Lennon and Bob Dylan tucked away in “This Time It Will” and “Long Overdue”.
Most of the album’s instrumentation was performed by Hanson himself. The onetime quasi-member of the Decemberists has taken elements of classical, pop and choral music and combined it with his falsetto voice, skilled musicianship and touching sensitivity to create a soft, willowy sound seldom found in popular music today. His skillful merging of instruments, styles and sounds give the album a textured ambience that results in ten haunting songs about trust, lost love, abandonment and loss that are impossible to ignore.
Jeff Hanson’s sophomore effort is a lasting testament to the power of words and voice. He’s definitely someone to keep an eye on as he matures and grows as a both a musician and a songwriter. This breathtaking album is nothing short of a masterpiece of intense emotion and focused energy.