Liz Janes – Done Gone Fire

Liz Janes
Done Gone Fire

Done Gone Fire gets points for effort, but ultimately it’s a vain, slightly misguided affair. The album strives for a raw, emotional intensity, but it lacks any real fire or intimacy. Plenty of bands have proven that you don’t have to yell and distort guitars to create energy and provide release, but too much of this album burbles without really getting anywhere. Janes and Sufjan Stevens, who produced, engineered, recorded, arranged, and played most of the instruments on the album, do seem to have enough ideas and talents to warrant their putting out albums. It’s just not really ever clear what they’re trying to say or accomplish with this one.
The album starts really strong. “Martyr’s Grind Up” is a quick acoustic guitar/ voice arrangement. “Will you be crazy for me, will you go crazy with me, baby all the way with me?” she asks, and the song is over in under two minutes. It leads into “Guitar Guitar,” which features the strongest harmonizing and some of the disc’s best musical moments. The way these first two songs come and go give the opening the same kind of excitement that Guided by Voices can create. Along with “Tristeza,” a stand-out track with droning organs, cymbal, and harmonies that sound like a scene from Edward Scissorhands, they’re the disc’s most fully realized pieces.
Most of the songs lack any cohesive structure, which is really fine, but without any thing to connect to, you end-up drifting off. Emotionally, they try to tread in some of the same creepy, unstable areas that Lisa Germano can create but with less success. Too many parts feel forced and slightly contrived for the album to cut too deeply, and since the album only really shoots for one kind of emotion, when it misses it falls really flat.
Janes does have a really nice voice with a wide range, and it’s enough to keep you listening, but when the singing veers into vocal aerobics it becomes a real turn-off. The same is true of much of the arrangements. They’re quirky and adventurous, but too often they feel pointlessly jagged. They may have benefited from more outside collaboration and opinions.
People who are looking for something a little more musically interesting from their female singer-songwriters will find things to like here. Janes shoots for moods that are a little out of reach right now, but she can hardly be faulted for trying. If anything, here’s to hoping she’s more successful next time.