Jane Siberry, Teenager

Johnny Black

By Johnny Black

on 04.22.11 in Reviews
Sparse, simple early recordings by Canada’s most engaging contemporary singer-songwriter

Jane Siberry has never reached the wider public that fell for Kate Bush or Tori Amos, but she's easily their equal and, arguably, more compelling than either. Recorded quickly in downtime between her 1995 album Maria and the mixing of a live Christmas album, this set of thirteen songs was written by the Canadian songstress as a teenager. The elegance and vocal dexterity of her later compositions is deliberately eschewed here, replaced instead with simple acoustic guitar picking and lyrics resounding with all the concerns of a precociously intelligent and sensitive adolescent — including inevitable angsty ponderings on the nature of love and the need to pull away from parents. Here's a Siberry who hadn't yet discovered how to mesh her complex metaphysical lyrics seamlessly into flowing melodies. Even so, the teen Siberry had plenty to say and said it better than most, with particularly sharp observations of the painful details of rites of passage, very much reminiscent of Janis Ian's "At Seventeen." No worse than some of the early efforts of Neil Young or Joni Mitchell, Teenager is not the place to start a Siberry collection but, once you've explored her major albums, this will become a must-have.