Review Summary: If you like strong female acoustic artists who sing about love and loss, this could be an album for you.
Amanda Jayne is a young acoustic artist from Long Island, NY, who I first became aware of in the most random of ways -- a friend of hers was running for my local school board, and when I checked out his Facebook page to see the platform he was running on, I found a link to her page. Before long, I had picked up her CD, and I'm really glad I did. Strike a Match
is Ms. Jayne's first full album, although it's actually about halfway between being an EP and an actual LP -- there are 9 tracks here, and only one of them is longer than 3 minutes. But they say that good things come in small packages, and at least in this case, that's true.
The instrumentation on Strike a Match
is fairly minimal. It's mostly just Jayne and her guitar, with a sprinkling of light keyboards and sparse percussion -- this is truly a DIY project. Naturally, this puts most of the focus on two things: Jayne's voice, and her songwriting. Fortunately for her, this works to her advantage -- her voice is both engaging and distinctive, and while there's still some room for her to grow in the songwriting area, her songs are both catchy and clever. True, she's definitely operating in the realm of what my daughter derisively dismisses as "another chick singing about her feelings" (as in, "Ugh! Are you listening to another
chick singing about her feelings"" followed by a disparaging shake of the head). But while this is an accurate description, you could say the same thing about Joni Mitchell, Aimee Mann, Tori Amos or Ingrid Michaelson, to name a few, so I'd say that Ms. Jayne is in some pretty good company.
The standout track by far is the album's first number, titled "One". This is an earnest and hopeful song about a new love relationship. The song's protagonist wonders aloud if this is the person who will win her heart, someone she can trust enough to lower her defenses: "Could you be the one, could you be the one/That gets under my skin/Could you be the one, could you be the one/That I finally let in"" The universality of the question makes it easy to relate to -- probably everyone who has ever begun a relationship, male or female, gay or straight, has asked themselves this question at one time or another. The singer's honesty in this moment of vulnerability combines here with an alluring vocal and a nice musical hook to make this a first-rate song. And even though I'm supposed to be reviewing the album
here, I'd be remiss if I didn't recommend the video for "One", which takes a strong song and turns it on its head, replacing the sincerity with humor. In it, Jayne and her potential soulmate are seated at a table in a restaurant. Jayne sings her song of hope while wearing a blindfold, so she's unable to see her boorish date ignoring her while he's checking his cell phone, ogling the waitress, stealing food off of her plate, and roofying her wine. Luckily for her, the moron gets distracted while trying to grope the waitress's butt and accidentally drinks the drugged wine himself, dropping to the floor unconscious as the song ends. If you ever needed proof that you don't need a huge budget to make a funny, memorable video, it's right here.
While the rest of the album doesn't quite measure up to the high bar set by "One", it gives it a pretty good shot. "Playing Dumb" finds Jayne wondering if she needs to pretend to be stupid and giggly in order to win over the object of her affection, although she's also "playing dumb for a different meaning", in this case "dumb" as in speechless. "Crazy Bitch", on the other hand, finds her playing the stalker girl -- "This feeling's unrequited/But I refuse to be quiet/I won't be happy 'til I get the last word/Then silence". By the chorus, she's realizing "Maybe I'm the crazy bitch/In this relationship/Maybe I should start to think/About a therapist." You can just tell here it's only a matter of time before she's cutting up his clothes and boiling his bunny. Lastly, "Phone Call" begins as a slow, stark song, as Jayne holds an awkward phone conversation with her ex, congratulating him on his new relationship and repeatedly asking him "Are you happy/'Cause I am"". Finally, she can't take it anymore and cries out "Not!", at which point the guitar bursts loose and the song speeds up while she tells him how she really
As I said at the outset, Jayne is still a very young artist, young enough that her website describes her as looking forward to graduating college in 2018. This means she's definitely got time to grow if music becomes her chosen profession. However, Strike a Match
tells me she's got scary potential. As it was, this album made my Top Ten Local Albums list for 2016, and "One" made my Top 20 Songs list overall
, not just for local artists. So something tells me that she's just getting started. If you like strong female acoustic artists who sing about what she describes as "love and loss", this is an album that's worth a listen.