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Jana Hunter - There's No Home

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Artist: Jana Hunter

Album: There's No Home

Label: Gnomonsong

Review date: Sep. 12, 2007

Texas native Jana Hunter’s world is a dolorous place where every journey ends almost exactly where it begins. Wan ghosts haunt the corners of her songs, and her lovely but ragged voice rarely betrays any sentiment save indifference. Hunter’s original claim to fame was her association with Devendra Banhart, and her music is as whimsical and idiosyncratic as this association would suggest. The gloomy outsider folk of her first album on Gnomonsong, Blank Unstaring Heirs of Doom, was well described by the album’s title. Simple guitar parts marked time behind Hunter’s distorted washed out vocals. Sparse, fuzzed out, and strange, her songs sounded like echoes from the foggy nether world where singer-songwriters go when they die. Hunter’s latest full-length on Gnomonsong, There’s No Home, contains songs as dark as anything she has released, but the crisper production and fleshier arrangements help to bring out a sense of humanity not present on Heirs of Doom.

The professional production values of There’s No Home are strikingly different from that of its predecessor. Most notably, Hunter’s voice is allowed to sing in its natural state. With the distortion and reverb stripped away, Hunter sounds, surprisingly enough, a bit like Kirstin Hersh (“Babies” and “Recess” especially). Where Hersh’s demons nip at her heels and work her into frenzy, Hunter’s hold a death grip on her ankles – her sluggish and detached vocal delivery makes her sound burdened and weary. When Hunter’s voice dips down into the low end of her range (“Pinnacle,” “Recess,” “Valkyries”) you can hear her sinking into nihilism and lethargy.

Not surprisingly, the most effective moments on There’s No Home are by far are the saddest, exemplified by the plodding guitars of “Recess,” the evil lullaby “Sleep,” the beautiful, aching sadness of “Sirens,” and the shoe gazer guitars of “There’s No Home.” But there are, however, a number of tracks that reach toward the light (“Vultures,” “Oracle,” “Palms”), and even some of the depressive songs are somewhat up-tempo (“Regardless,” “Birds”).

There’s No Home is more accomplished than Hunter’s previous work, but some of her deadpan whimsicality and murky charm has been filtered out in order to make room for variety of emotion. None of the individual songs suffer under the change of aesthetic, but the overall vision seems compromised. Blank Unstaring Heirs of Doom was more inconsistent in tone and style from song to song, but created a much more compelling whole. At her most arresting, Hunter is like a spectral guide leading you down the shadowy alleys of her past life – you may become confused, desperate, or afraid, but Hunter is too long dead to care. On There’s No Home, Hunter reveals a human (albeit a chemically depressed human) range of emotion, making her narrative more believable but much less captivating.

By Malini Sridharan

Other Reviews of Jana Hunter

Blank Unstaring Heirs of Doom


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