Jennifer O’Connor: Over the Mountain, Across the Valley and Back to the Stars


In her Matador Records debut, Over the Mountain, Across the Valley, and Back to the Stars, Jennifer O’Connor delivers a pleasant album full of hum-along melodies. Though the album is full of songs about loss, the tone remains upbeat. O’Connor’s vocals sound like a breathier Amanda Kravat (Marry Me Jane), but with less range. Her girl-next-door voice and the simplistic song structures give the album a relaxed feel, a perfect soundtrack for a leisurely cruise through the countryside with no destination in mind.

Everything is scaled-back on the album, from the subtle vocals to the straightforward lyrics to the minimalist guitar.  The disc’s greatest strength is also its greatest weakness: a no-frills simplicity that makes each song good but no song great. The lone standout track among a disc full of similar songs is the salsa number, “Complicated Rhyme,” complete with castanets and a catchy Latin beat. O’Connor’s lyrics are refreshingly candid, though at times they are lacking in inspiration. At one point in “Exeter, Rhode Island,” O’Connor sings “ba ba ba ba ooh-ah ooh-ah oh” over lazy power chords. Most songs hover around the three minute mark, underscoring the closely trimmed nature of the disc. If given more time to expand on the songs, perhaps O’Connor could’ve explored new territories and taken some of the songs in different directions. As is, O’Connor plays it safe and releases an album that is good but unspectacular.   


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