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Jem


Country of origin:

Wales

Type of music generally:

Pop ectronica

Status:

Most recent release, Down to Earth (2008)

See also:

Jem's site

Comparisons:

Dido, Sia Furler, or perhaps a groovier Ephemera. (thecritics@earthlink.net)

More trip-pop than Dido, less electronic than Frou Frou. (JoAnn Whetsell)

Covers/own material:

Own and co-written

General comments:

Jem (the singer, not the cartoon) has been featured quite prominently on the LA station KCRW. She's pretty good. She's probably in the same vein as Frou Frou or Dido for those who like that sort of thing. Think radio-friendly trip hop. Her current claim to fame is that she recorded with Guy Stigsworth (Madonna, Björk, and of course, Frou Frou) and cowrote a song with him. He took that song and then it ended up on Madonna's American Life CD, and was her third single "Nothing Fails." It's also my favorite song on the album. Well okay, it's the only song that I like on the album really, so when I found out that Jem wrote it, I had to track her down. And she's not bad. I've sampled sounds pretty tasty. (iflin@speakeasy.net)

I'm not sure who to compare her to. I've heard Dido mentioned as a point of comparison, and I'll use it for lack of something better. But whereas Dido, I think, starts with a pop format and brings ectronica to it, Jem works the other way around, starting with ectronica and bringing a pop format to it. (JoAnn Whetsell)

Recommended first album:

Finally Woken

Recordings:


It All Starts Here ep

Release info:

2003—ATO Records—314 558 866-2

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Comments:

If there is one artist that couldn't be more 'ecto' it's probably Jem, a UK singer-songwriter that KCRW pretty much hand-delivered to ATO Records. I've been corresponding with her for the last year about her work because I absolutely think she's brilliant. A debut EP of songs came out this past week with the catchy lead track "They." She'll no doubt be compared to Dido and Beth Orton but, personally, I think she's more in line with Sia Furler or perhaps a groovier Ephemera. (thecritics@earthlink.net)

Jem's debut ep It All Starts Here is wonderful. I liked it right off, but it took me a little while to really love it. It was originally released before the album when Jem started getting airplay on KCRW. Now that the album is out, it seems only big fans will want to have both discs. All of the songs here appear on Finally Woken in only slightly different versions. Still, it's fun to listen to. (JoAnn Whetsell)


Finally Woken

Release info:

2004—ATO Records—ATO0016 88088-21519-2

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Jem—vocals, arrangements

Guest artists:

Yoad Nevo—electric, acoustic, and Spanish guitars, gremlin, bass, keyboards, percussion, mini harp, double bass, banjo, sitar, recorder, water bottle, arrangements
Danny Griffin—bassline (3)
Justin—string arrangement (5), acoustic guitar (5), Rhodes (6)
Nick Ingman—string arrangement and conducting (6, 10, 11)
Israel Nachum—drums (6)
FILMharmonic Orchestra, Prague—strings (6, 10, 11)
Paul Herman—acoustic guitar (11)

Produced by:

Yoad Nevo, Jem, Ge-ology

Comments:

When this album came out I listened to it repeatedly, loving every song. Then the enthusiasm started to die down. But every time I pull out this disc, I fall in love with it all over again. There's something so fresh about Jem's combination of pop and trip-hop. I find it completely infectious. The lyrics are pretty simple, but there are all these great grooves and hooks. It's fun and joyful without being insipid. She has a bit of Caribbean flair on "Wish I" and more of a hard rock edge on "24." She slows down a bit on "Finally Woken," "Missing You," "Flying High," and shows a softer side on "Stay Now." It's all good, but no question, it's the up-beat songs that make me tap my toes and sing and dance along. (JoAnn Whetsell)

After hearing some tantalizing snippets on radio and the website, I was hoping to be more knocked out by Finally Woken than I have been, but this is admittedly after a single listen to the CD. I can hear the reasons for the trip-hop references, but vocally I also hear some similarities with Beth Orton as well (with maybe a dash of Dusty Springfield), and my initial reaction to Beth's music was also an ambivalent one. She's now one of my absolute favorites, so Jem may be another case where repeated applications are called for. :) (tiefe@dsl-only.net)

Another fun album—a bit more techno and dance oriented than Nellie McKay, and a bit less ambitious, but in that vein. (jjhanson@att.net)

One of my radio friendly pleasures from the year. (Southpaw@southpaw32.com)


Down to Earth

Release info:

2008—ATO Records—ATO0060

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Jem

Guest artists:

Jeff Bass—guitar, bass, keyboards and drum programming
Justin Griffiths—acoustic guitar
Johnny Evans—saxophone
Ken Robinson—trumpet
Nick Cuchinella—trombone
Lester Mendez—instrumentation, acoustic piano, brass arrangement, string arrangement
Carmen Puig—Spanish girl (3)
David Levita—electric and acoustic guitars
Rafael Padilla—percussion
Mike Bolger—trumpet, trombone, mellophone, euphonium, Eb cornet
Del Casher—experimental guitar gong sound
Sonus String Quartet—strings (4, 6, 7, 12)
Welsh Choir of Southern California—choir (4)
Derrick Milan & The Krew—choir (5, 8)
Karra Walker—solo vocals (5)
Vusi Mahlasela—Zulu prayer (6)
Jeff Atmajian—piano arrangement, string arrangement, piano
Mike Bradford—guitar, bass, drums, instrumentation, string arrangement
Louis Resto—additional keyboards (8)
Brian Berryman—fantastic fader moves (8)
Greg Kurstin (of the bird and the bee)—awesome aciiid sounds (9)
Shinobu Lee—Japanese vocals (9)
Hiroko Aoyagi—Japanese vocals (9)
Kevin Beber—drum programming (11)
Very talented hamster—hamster bell (12)

Produced by:

Jeff Bass (1, 2, 5, 8); Lester Mendez (3, 4, 7, 12); Mike Bradford (6, 10, 11); Greg Kurstin (9); additional production by Jem

Comments:

light but still good stuff. (stjarnell@yahoo.com)

Lots of fun. She's far more eclectic here than on her debut, using various sounds and vocals from around the world (Latin, gospel, hip-hop and banjos, for example, and Spanish, Zulu, and Japanese vocals). But it all hangs together because of the underlying beats and upbeat trip-hop-pop. She's also improved on her slower songs; "You Will Make It" is a beautiful ballad. (JoAnn Whetsell)


Further info:

Jem's November 20, 2003 and July 13, 2004 performances on KCRW's Morning Becomes Eclectic are archived at www.kcrw.org


Thanks to JoAnn Whetsell for work on this entry.

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DISCLAIMER: Comments and reviews in the Ectophiles' Guide are excerpted from the ecto mailing list or volunteered by members of the list. They are the opinions of music enthusiasts, not professional music critics.

Entry last updated 2012-01-15 20:57:53.
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