With a career that has spanned more than ten years, Liz Janes still sounds determinedly visceral with her music on Say Goodbye. Most of the time, one should be able to gather everything intended by purely listening to the music. While that would be the ideal situation, outside forces creep in and influence our overall judgment. But Janes has taken to delivering a sense of pop and has married it to her tender singer-songwriter songs. And in being the responsible catalyst for her album’s formula to success, Janes delivers a winner.
Through the sultry tones and calm sounds of “I Don’t Believe,” Janes sounds just as sultry and warm, increasingly inviting in between the song’s swaying motion. A rolling organ, a swooning bass line and an overall R&B demeanor – one that shyly appears throughout the album’s guitar/singer-songwriter songs – swiftly fill everything to introduce richly brighter and far more robust sounds than before. After a brief interlude, “Bitty Thing” is where one can find the instantly recognizable touches that always permeated her music in the past. There’s the fluttering guitar melody that recalls something off labelmate Sufjan Stevens’ arsenal but like the jarring explosion on the latter song, there are plenty of new experiments happening all over.
The strong sense of soul is easily one of the album’s best facets. Janes has seemingly taken to not only the well-rounded sounds but the emotional pull that soul music induces. On “Who Will Take Care,” Janes decorates the walls with bright trumpets and substantial piano keyboards. The keys – a chief feature in almost every song – counter the horns and their glean and in turn, Janes feeds off the open spaces to deliver downright moving lines. Sure, it’s not the soul-driven genius of Sharon Jones but there is plenty the two could learn from each other and in the meantime, Janes can bask in the skill of rendering singer-songwriter beauties that can have multiple horns too (“Trees.”)
The album’s material was created during a time where Janes was working directly with producer Rafter. The two create a vast landscape of variously different styles and moods to convey on Say Goodbye. And although there is a great deal of trepidation and reflection in the album’s themes, it’s the prevailing spirit of Janes that drives the music to a gifted level. An underrated singer, Janes’ voice soars over the album’s stunning production. On “Anchor” she sounds entirely reborn and more so, she’s given in to the free-form shaping music often performs on itself. Allowing the drums and scattered acoustic instrumentation fall around her, her voice is achingly fragile and yet, stronger than ever as she sings “anchor me here.” Even during her most retrospective moments, like on “Time & Space,” the music is always endearingly magnetic. A subtle and bell-laden melody is all she needs to sustain as everything melts away.
The form is evidently sparkling and it’s the perfect kind of ending to the album’s beckon for closure. Sometimes it’s more about the timing of things when suddenly all of the pieces seem to fit that much tighter and better together. For Janes, Say Goodbye is a shining force and testimony of the great resolute determination is; if this is what her version of soul is, the new and inviting experiments are surely welcome.