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While this website has become known for its in-depth album and concert reviews, the digest contains concise comments on new music our audience has either recommended or might enjoy. Click on album covers or label names for links to further information. Click on the title to view the article.

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Finally Woken CD Cover
Image Orchid Entertainment Ltd 2004

Jem
Image Orchid Entertainment Ltd 2004
 

(09 May 2004) Welsh singer Jem (Jemma Griffiths) has it all--an attention-grabbing smooth-as -silk voice, a formidable songwriting skill, and probably the best album you'll hear this year. Finally Woken is Jem's debut--and the music industry is already buzzing about this one. While Jem may draw favorable comparisons to Dido, her punchy and infectious pop sound is much closer to the music of Frou Frou and Poe. Mixing all sorts of diverse sounds (including trip-hop, folk, electronica, 70's psychedelic rock, reggae and classical), Jem has boiled all of her influences down to a delicious blend of pop-coolness.

Growing up in Wales, Jem began singing and writing songs at the age of thirteen. With her passion for music ever driving her on, Jem decided to finish school and ultimatlely attended Sussex University. While in college, Jem stayed connected to the music scene by working as a club and festival promoter and a DJ agent.

Jem studied law at school, but then decided to return to Wales in November of 1999 to hone her craft. After completing a collection of four demos, Jem moved to London and began writing sessions with electronic producer Guy Sigsworth (Bjork, Frou Frou). The song "Nothing Fails"-- which appears as track 6 on Madonna's American Life album--was one of the fruits of Jem's writing labors. Jem then visited Brooklyn and hooked up with hip-hop producer Ge-ology (Mos Def, Talib Kweli) and in autumn 2002 she met her now co-producer Yoad Nevo.

Nic Harcourt, the Music Director of influential Los Angeles radio station KCRW 89.9 FM, heard Jem's song "Finally Woken" and began to play the song on the station's "Morning Becomes Eclectic" program. Listeners went nuts over it and Jem became one of the most requested artists at the time.

A&R guy Bruce Flohr heard Jem, loved her sound, and asked her to sign to Dave Matthews' ATO record label. So, after years of hard work, Jem has finally arrived, and we couldn't be more excited! Finally Woken is such a wonderfully perfect album that to point out all of its strong points would require a review the length of a Tolstoy novel. "They" is the funk-tacular, more-addicting-than-crack opening track that sounds like the end result of a Bach, Outkast, and Sarah McLachlan jam session. "Come on Closer" is a slightly randy little number that starts with a 60's "I Dream of Genie"-like sample and suddenly erupts into an explosin of rump-shaking beats and biting guitars. The easy-breezy "Finally Woken" is so laid-back and carefree that you'd think Jem had grown up in Venice, California rather than Wales. Jack Johnson, watch your back!

Jem isn't all fun and games though. In the chilling "24," Jem sings from the perspective of someone who is going to be executed in 24 hours. Without being overly-political, Jem captures the eerie and tense emotions that might run through the convicted's mind. The orchestration in "24" is lush and majestic while the smashing guitar rifts groan in perfect contrast.

"Missing You," deserves special mention because Jem has accomplished the difficult task of making a trip-hop/psychedelic piece of music sound sexy, smart, and poignant. This song is a standout and will be on our personal playlist for a long time. Just when things are about to get a bit moody, Jem pops back with the most unlikely and fresh song we've heard in a while, "Wish I." Think "Grease" meets Sheryl Crowe . The island-beat joy of this song is enough to put a huge smile on your face as your order that ticket for the Hawaiian vacation you've been waiting so long to take.

Another favorite is the haunted love song, "Falling for You." Again, Jem balances beautiful instrumentation, crystal-clear harmonies and crafty songwriting. "Stay Now" is a quirky and sweet tune featuring therimin, sitar guitar, strings, and subtle beats. We don't know how she makes all of these disparate elements work together, but she does!

Without a doubt, Finally Woken is one of those "breath of fresh air" albums that enlivens the music world with its originality, accessibility, and verve. Read further reviews, listen to soundbites and order the album from amazon.com here. We champion Jem whole-heartedly and recommend her album without reservation.--Justin Elswick

 
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