In the case of Brooklyn-based singer and songwriter Jennifer O'Connor, both came to pass. In 2006 she released "Over the Mountain, Across the Valley, and Back to the Stars," one of the finest songwriter-based albums the celebrated Matador label has ever released. She followed with "Here With Me" in 2008, another honestly-written, beautifully-sung collection, but soon took her leave of the label and returned to running her own show -- which meant bar tending, freelance scribbling and selling stuff on eBay. Such is the oh-so-romantic life of the independent musician.
Whether or not "I Want What You Want," her latest release and fifth album overall, changes all that is an open question. One question that is closed is whether O'Connor still has stories to tell, melodies to share, hearts to break and even more to heal.
On first listen, you might consider "I Want What You Want" a breakup album, but the songs, and the emotional terrain they chart, are rarely specific to any one lover or any specific moment in time. O'Connor is simply facing her deepest self and her deepest choices -- sometimes wise, sometimes reckless -- with all the clarity she can muster.
You don't have to tell me
How it's gonna end
I have seen the sign posts
And some things I wouldn't recommend
So these are songs about changes, all the endings and beginnings of life, about understanding those changes, committing to them, and moving forward, no matter what the signposts may say. You'll want to follow these songs, but such a journey, a sojourn really, has no guarantees of a happy ending.
The sound of "I Want What You Want" is as diverse and finely detailed as the songwriting. From the delicate, steady strumming of opening track "Another Day" to the angry distortion of "No One Knows"; from the gliding, nostalgic winter sing-along "Hidden Hill" to the elegantly-stringed "Swan Song (For Bella)"; from the lively, danceable pop of "Good Intentions" to the final, nervous electric piano chord of "Your Guitar," O'Connor makes the absolute most of these arrangements and the inspired backing from a small group of close friends.
The result is perhaps her finest album to date. Every tone, every note, and even every breath between the lines of these beautiful songs tell a story -- and those stories unfold and change with every listen.
"I Want What You Want" will be officially released on March 6 on Kiam Records.