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Jen Gloeckner – Vine (Spinning Head)

Jen Gloeckner - Vine
14 April 2017

Dubuque, Iowa’s sensual and soulful, Stevie Nicks-conjuring chanteuse Gloeckner doesn’t make many albums; this is only her third LP going back to 2004’s Miles Apart, and first since 2010’s Mouth of Mars. Yet Vine, whose delay was due in part to a severe back/hip injury that prevented her from writing and recording for a few years, is worth the seven-year wait. Proficiently produced by Gloeckner, it possesses plumper and plusher sound than its predecessors, with a more focused and fluid feel than the intermittently meandering Mouth. Indeed, Vine’s malleable, moderately paced rhythms and mellow, mesmeric mood remain consistent and controlled throughout, similar in style to Mouth’s stunning standout, “Sleep to Dream.” But Gloeckner – who handles all keyboard and bass/drum programming duties, as well as most of the guitars – so adroitly shapes and sculpts the album’s arrangements, and crafts such a captivating coterie of seamlessly synced sounds, that each song manages to have its own singular stamp.

Curiously, Vine’s first three tunes take on a trepidatious tone that’s at odds with the rest of the LP. On the trippy opening title track, Gloeckner’s dark-hued, hypnotic voice sounds like a séance-summoned spirit, as she scolds a shifty, unsophisticated suitor, complaining that “all I get is vine,” rather than the “fine wine” she craves. The thumping and tribal, jungle noise-jotted instrumental “Firefly (War Dance)” (which is combined with “Vine” on the song’s single version) continues the apprehensive, agitated aura, while Fred Longberg-Holm’s creaky, cawing cello contributes to the claustrophobic climate on “Breathe.” But beginning with the gorgeous “Ginger Ale,” with its calm-after-the-storm references to restorative rainbows and sunlight-speckled skies, the album basks in a bracing, breathtaking beauty. Behind Gloeckner’s sweeter, more seductive singing and calmative choral coos, and fueled by her mollifying martial drumbeat and twinkling piano trills, “Ginger” is like being washed by a cool and cleansing waterfall.

Ditto the softly swelling “The Last Thought,” with its lulling “lee-la-la-la” backing vocal line, and the irenic island/hula impressions and Disneyesque dreaminess of “Blowing Through,” one of two songs flecked by Jen Wiater’s fluttering flute. Elsewhere, the ethereal “Counting Sheep” and enrapturing “Row with the Flow” – the latter featuring The Police founding guitarist Henry Padovani’s gently gravelly, Louis Armstrong-evoking backing vocals, The Psychedelic Furs axeman John Ashton’s ghostly guitar, and In the Valley Below singer Angela Mattson’s heavenly harmonies – so recall Julee Cruise’s tantalizing music for TV’s recently revived series Twin Peaks, its director David Lynch should keep Gloeckner on his speed dial should Ms. Cruise ever solicit a stand-in. Even before hearing Ashton’s glistening guitar and Gloeckner’s vivacious voice commingle on the consoling, soul-sanitizing closer “Sold,” you’ll be “sold” on this spellbinding, speakers-filling album. (