Review Summary: In a delightful debut, Tenci does its own thing
Tenci started in Chicago as a solo project by Jess Shoman, and has since grown to include bassist/vocalist Isabel Reidy, drummer Joseph Farago and sometimes-guitarist-sometimes-flautist-sometimes-saxophonist Curt Oren in the present lineup. In "My Heart Is An Open Field", Tenci's debut, Shoman's storytelling is laid bare in a way that's so refreshingly unpretentious. Stories about family, of moving around, the hardships and joys that come with everyday life. The voicemail from her grandmother at the end of "Blue Spring" is touching and should remind us more than a little of the family we leave behind, how they never really go away, even if they're gone.
Serpent is spellbinding and you cannot stop yourself from clapping along. For a song about being bitten to death by a snake and feeling the poison slowly take you, that sound you can't help but sink into is an outstanding thematic choice by the band. The two parts of "Joy" continue the goodness and adds a xylophone that's a real compliment to what they've already had going on.
This album stands out for 2 distinct reasons, the lead singer's unique and contrasting voice against the soft guitar underneath, and the use of wind instruments I'm struggling not to label "saxo-folk". There's very little superfluous on this album, all of it contributes to and enhances the sound. Shoman's voice reminded me instantly of Frances Quinlan (But that's cheating, Tenci is on tour with Hop Along right now, I nonetheless stand by my assertion!!) On balance, it's a really fun, really soothing very, very pretty album to listen to and I'm excited to see how Tenci's sound grows and evolves.