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For those wondering what the hell happened to Liz Phair, keep wondering. For the next logical musical step following Phair’s Matador albums, Jen Schande is here to take up that mantle. 19 is a response to the book Valencia by Michelle Tea, a novel set in the lesbian culture of San Francisco’s Mission District. Unlike Phair’s Exile In Guyville being the feminist response to the Rolling Stones “classic” Exile On Main St., this album is a celebration of the empowering feeling Schande had reading Valencia, in particular, Chapter 19. The tone and tempo shift back and forth throughout the eight song album. Three of the tracks are instrumentals with each reflecting different moods. The album commences with the most aggressive one in “Intro To A Sinister Smile”, a quick and effective single string riff. “Nice Fez,” and “I Really Like Sonic Youth, And I Really Want To Have Sex With You,” (if only such a line actually worked, high school would have been way more fun) are really fun tracks that, with Schande’s voice and deft guitar work, recall the glory days of nineties alterna-pop. “Ghost Power,” is the record’s most riot grrrly moment and is almost Stooge-ian. The album’s penultimate track is primarily an acoustic guitar and xylophone track and is the softest of (and best) of the instrumentals, titled “A Different Kind Of Stripped Down,”. 19 is witty, full of character, and ambitious – one of the best debuts of the year.
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