Jill Sobule, Underdog Victorious

Barry Walters

By Barry Walters

on 04.22.11 in Reviews

Best known for her 1995 hit "I Kissed A Girl," Jill Sobule proves herself on her fifth — and maybe finest — album a far more substantial songwriter than her one-hit-wonder status suggests. Much like her fellow New Yorkers Fountains of Wayne, Sobule possesses uncommon wit, plentiful hooks and the ability to pick up and twist pop idioms at will. On "Cinnamon Park," she borrows that sunny piano riff from Chicago's "Saturday in the Park" for a bouncy ditty about dropping magic mushrooms in a waterbed-equipped '70s van. She's naturally nostalgic for those carefree days of yore, but doesn't forget to mention that her friend is "now in counseling and she's using again." For "The Last Line," Sobule croons a fragile lullaby of lovers who share cocaine-fueled plans of kids and real estate, as if relaying a fairy tale gone wrong. Not once during Underdog Victorious does she make the common folkie mistake of thinking smart lyrics preclude a memorable tune and well-conceived arrangement. When she covets a successful and far more practical friend's flat-screen TV during "Freshman," a spartan keyboard tinkle gives way to a broad sweep of instrumentation laced with the sounds of suburban lawn sprinklers and twittering birds, demonstrating a musical imagination that's as vivid as her plain-spoken poetry.