First heard adding an ethereal voice to her Sloan pals’ Smeared album, Halifax singer/guitarist Jennifer Pierce brought her own everyone-writes/everyone-sings quartet out to play a couple of years later with the smart and strong Dreamcake, recorded (as opposed to produced) by Liz Phair collaborator Brad Wood. A diverse collection of contemporary electric indie-pop styles (some audibly influenced by Sloan) from a palette of appealing melodies, gentle harmony singing and buzzing guitar power, the casual-sounding record articulates the longings and frustrations of mindful young women who know when to draw the line and walk away from a bad scene. Although “3 Days” clearly announces “I want you to touch me,” the slowly simmering “I’m Sorry” turns desire on its heel in stark language: “I’m sorry that I hate you/I despise the way you make me feel/I’m not a bad person/My heart is good…You bring out only the worst in me/Don’t treat me this way.” The quid pro quo romantic vow of “Promise” (“Never leave me guessing, always be proud of me…Let me make you happy and take you to the country, always stay with me…And if you do this for me… I will never go away”) nicely balances the salvage effort of “To Be Your Friend,” the reconciliation attempt of “Mend” and the loneliness of “Love Letter.” Although the product of four personalities, Dreamcake ultimately seems like one individual patiently enduring romance’s vagaries.
The German 14 08 93 EP contains the album’s “Not Happy,” an alternate version of “3 Days” produced by Paul Kolderie, a remix of “Love Letter” and the non-LP “I Lied.” Closed adds five fine new studio recordings to the Jale stack. Guitarist Eve Hartling’s “Jesus Loves Me” and bassist Laura Stein’s punky “Double Edge” represent the band’s rocking side; Pierce’s “Nine Years Now” and “Long Way Home” take a lighter approach with lovely harmonies; drummer Alyson MacLeod’s brisk “Wash My Hands” leans firmly in both directions. Although it demonstrates how distinct each member of Jale’s music is, the EP again displays the band’s common purpose.
Jale introduces its light-handed new drummer, Mike Belitsky, on So Wound, which was co-produced by Brad Wood in Chicago. Appreciably elevating the band’s skill and confidence levels from indie pop cuteness to real contention (while upholding the lyrical fortitude), the album is a taut, purposeful marvel of great pop songs in a number of cohesively connected modes. “Tumble” sounds like someone’s been taking singing lessons from Liz Phair and the harmonies of “All Ready” call to mind the Bangles, but “Ali,” “Over You,” “Hey Hey,” the punky “Mosquito” and “Despite” (with Belitsky’s backing vocals for a nice contrast) are pure — and great — in their Jaleness.