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Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Juliane Jones - The Space Between The Telephone Lines

Juliane Jones – The Space Between The Telephone Lines
2014, Juliane Jones

Very often, the key to standing out in the Indie music world is the presence of one distinguishing quality.  It can be a specific tone of voice, or a signature guitar style, or any one of a number of unique traits.  For New York-based singer/songwriter Juliane Jones it could be a number of things.  It could be her bilingual approach to songwriting (Mandarin Chinese and English), here gentle folk/pop style, her infectious hooks, or a voice that haunts.  Jones has lived in various places around the world, and speaks fluent French and Mandarin (in addition to English).  Her inspiration is that of an ethnomusicologist, understanding and binding cultures through music.  Her debut album, The Space Between The Telephone Lines, reflects on the space between us where distinctions grey and fade, and blends both sound and meaning into something new.

The Mandarin/English split makes the album different to interpret for meaning, yet the Jones gives enough through the English language lyrics and through her expressive vocal style for understanding.  “Free This Mind” opens the set with an infectious folk/pop arrangement.  What’s most impressive, perhaps, is Jones’ ability to switch back and forth between two disparate sounding languages without affecting the lyric or stylistic quality of the song.  “Rhythm and Blues” spends little time in English, focusing on a repetitive chorus with a great hook.  “When You Sleep” is a song of longing and heartbreak set to a gentle pop swing.  Jones is entirely convincing as she ruminates on love lost.

“Just A Feeling” fits into a similar groove, but has a more nebulous feel to it.  Jones opens with a verse in Mandarin, and then proceeds with alternating lines, almost like a language primer set to music.  “Wooden Horse” finds Jones venturing into a highly marketable gentle pop sound.  While the mix of languages is perhaps anathema to American commercial radio, the potential for this song as an international hit is very real.  “Heavy Things” stays in the same musical territory, driven by the rhythm of a bouncy piano line.  The prospective love song is sweetness and light, focused on things that matter rather than the material considerations that often weigh relationships down. “Hey Shadow” is a song focused on kicking negativity to the curb.  There’s a cuteness to the song that’s almost overwhelming, but Jones keeps it from becoming an ‘ear sore’.

Jones jumps into “The Bicycle Song”, a parable about love with a bouncy chorus that will get stuck in your head.  This is one of the most appealing songs on the album with real pop radio potential.  “Cotton Candy” plays well in spite of the young sounding lyrics, playing to an almost J-Pop sensibility.  “Jack” is a bit more sophisticated, with a dark sound and a light swing to the arrangement that intrigues.  It’s a variation on “Hit The Road Jack” that’s musically appealing.  Jones closes things out with “Water”, a dreamy pop ballad full of acoustic guitar and the faint echoes of reverb.  

Juliane Jones shows an expressive talent on The Space Between The Telephone Lines, as well as an ability to cross social and cultural divides.  Jones’ ability to mix languages so seamlessly while maintaining a continuity of sound is particularly impressive.  The heavy reliance on Mandarin will limit her scope with American audiences, but Jones may be playing to a much wider market on the international stage one day.

Rating: 3 Stars (Out of 5)

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1 comment:

Unknown said...

Thanks for checking out my music and reviewing The Space Between The Telephone Lines! I really appreciate your thoughts! Cheers, Juliane