This female is better than Mann
Barry: I wanna date a musician.
Rob: I wanna live with a musician. She'd write songs at home and ask me what I thought of them, and maybe even include one of our little private jokes in the liner notes.
Barry: Maybe a little picture of me in the liner notes.
Dick: Just in the background somewhere.
I'll admit that I'm a sucker for female singer/songwriters. Maybe not as obsessed as those music snobs in Nick Hornby's story, but I like them all the same. Or maybe it's the idea of the female singer/songwriter. Truth be told I rarely like the whole singer/songwriter genre, male or female--it typically seems uninspired and recycled.
A few months ago a friend introduced me to Petracovich. The musical expression of Jessica Peters from San Francisco, Petracovich is about as close to my female singer/songwriter fantasy as I've heard. Her silky and dreamy vocals are hypnotic and enrapturing. I rarely agree with Pitchfork, but they called her a "subdued songbird." The instrumention is foundationally organic--lots of piano and strummed acoustic--augmented by gorgeous keyboards and muffled beats and textures. The songs are fragile and airy, but not wimpy by any means. She's been compared to Aimee Mann, which I can understand, but don't connect with. Yes, there are Jon Brion-like production decisions, but the music itself--the chord structures and progressions--is much more sophisticated than Mann's four-chord habits.
She's virtually perfect--though the lyrics themselves are often a bit shallow, seeming to be an excuse for her vocals rather than an avenue for communicating. All the same, Petrocovich's low-fi recordings are incredibly pleasing. The first record, Blue Cotton Skin, was beautiful and impressive. But the newer record, We Are Wyoming, has been a consistent iPod choice for months now. (You can steam both records on her website.)
If you're on the left coast, check out Peters whenever you can. The live experience, revolving around her dual-keyboards and laptop, is truly breathtaking.
Driving Home - Petracovich
Nighttime - Petracovich