Pablo’s Choice – Record Of The Week 20/07/2018 – Jenn Champion – Single Rider
20th July 2018
Single Rider is a corker of an album, filled with synth and pop hooks. Don’t just take our word for it, here’s what the press are saying…
Carissa’s Wierd alum makes her first foray into crowd-pleasing synth pop in an intriguing collaboration with Seattle-based producer SYML.
Allow Jennifer Champion to reintroduce herself. Since releasing 2014’s Cool Choices as S, the former Carissa’s Wierd co-vocalist has made several changes to her music and persona. In 2015, she announced via Facebook that she would no longer go by “Jenn Ghetto” (a moniker that dated back to her Carissa’s Wierd days), apologizing for “the anti-black racism i perpetuate using the word ‘ghetto.’” Now known as Jenn Champion, a more search-friendly moniker than S, she’s started making synth pop. Her third record for Hardly Art, Single Rider, is the result of a collaboration with Seattle-based producer SYML, as well as her realization that, as she put it, “the record I wanted to make was… a cross between Drake and Billy Joel.”
Single Rider doesn’t actually sound like Drake or Billy Joel, but despite the stylistic left turn it represents, Champion laid the groundwork for this new direction on Cool Choices’ drum-machine-led “Tell Me,” as well as on her 2016 single “No One.” While those songs added new instrumental flourishes to her spare, confessional songwriting, Single Rider goes full-bore pop, to the extent that it barely resembles anything in Champion’s back catalog. The album’s sparkling synths and airy atmosphere are reminiscent of a similar transition made by Minneapolis duo Now, Now, who traded emo for more synthetic sounds on this year’s Saved…..READ MORE
Heartbreak is never something easy to overcome, and in some cases the denial and grief comes in full force. Something that helps us get through it: music. Jenn Champion bares a broken heart in Single Rider as she embarks on a mental journey to overcome her pain.
Single Rider may have a heavy pretense, but the music is pretty chill throughout. The gentle disposition she has is almost eerie when put into account what she’s going through: the calmness in the face of tragedy reveals how much it’s affected her. ‘O.M.G. (I’m All Over It)’ introduces the record calmly, a nice vibe enveloping you and putting you in a state of comfort as Champion tries to tell herself that she’s over it. The reality is, and which presents itself as the album continues, is that it’s the contrary. ‘Coming For You’ follows through more honestly, the beautiful melodies and sweet synths supporting Champion’s story of finding her own worth, the chorus chanting: “Got somethin’ to prove, and nothin’ to lose / I’m comin’ for you.” In the song, Champion finds herself wanting to prove to her partner that she isn’t something to be thrown aside….READ MORE
You’ve heard the story before: a songwriter accrues a strong fan following and good critical opinion for making music that feels personal and intimate (both instrumentally and lyrically), and then they make a push into the world of synthesizers. You saw it recently with Tegan & Sara, Porches, Eleanor Friedberger, and [insert one of the dozens of acts that pops into your head at this point]. Jennifer Hays, also known as “S”, also known as “Jenn Ghetto” (in Carissa’s Wierd), and now known as Jenn Champion adds herself to this sometimes dubious, sometimes distinguished list. Hey, sometimes it’s time for a new, fresh start. Single Rider, her first under the name Jenn Champion, establishes that quite well.
Rebranding herself as “Jenn Champion” feels like a do-over. Single Rider is a different record from anything S or Jenn Ghetto would have released. Not just in its musical approach, but in its assertion. Her voice is stronger and more confident here. At its best, Single Rider provides some of the catchiest, most interesting work of Hays’ career. “Time To Regulate”, for example, circles around a heck of an earworm featuring vivid lyrics. “Holding On” feels as bold and quietly personal as anything you would have heard on an S album. Even if she wraps it up with pretty synthesizers….READ MORE
Watch the video for O.M.G. (I’m All Over It) below.