“Whileaway,” Jeannine Hebb (Jeannine Hebb)
Jeannine Hebb’s brilliant “Call Him Out” is a sweet-on-the-surface/sour-at-the-core gem of a song that barely hints at the depths of the talents she displays on her new full-length album, “Whileaway.”
Reminiscent of a twisted Lily Allen ditty, the carnival-esque “Call Him Out” finds Hebb gingerly singing along to the spritely flow of piano, the tone of the arrangement a sharp contrast to the emotional desperation of the lyrics, which find the jilted Hebb turning to her friends for support and they’re all, “standing around, their hands in pocket, staring at the ground.”
The instantly gratifying song runs the risk of upstaging the somewhat subtler remaining tracks on “Whileaway,” though listeners who give Hebb half a chance will find rewards throughout the release.
The New York-based native of the Boston area is a remarkably well-rounded singer/pianist/songwriter. She can put a girlish lilt on her voice, or cut to soulful resonance a la Fiona Apple. Her keyboards dive through pop-friendly melodies, but they’re enriched with jazz intonations. And her lyrics are provocative and complex, balancing heartbreak with dark humor.
Hebb sinks into melancholy paranoia on the torchy “I Believe,” pushes herself against the trotting cadence of “Back to Me Again,” flips through an echoing chorus on the sauntering “Goodbye” and turns the word “low” into a multi-syllable refrain on the plunky “Low,” where she also sings, “I’m not going to drown in all your rain and thunder.”
Hebb’s background in musical theater betrays itself in the melodrama as she sometimes gets lost inside herself and/or overindulges in defining herself through her bad relationships. But frankly, excessive self-analysis is just fodder for many fans of her style of music. And Hebb delivers it with freshness and style.
Rating (five possible): 4