Elliott Smith fans

I know there are more than a couple here, and wanted to clue you into a guy named Jeff Hanson who happens to record for Elliott’s old label, Kill Rock Stars.

Hanson’s falsetto voice takes a track or two to get used to, but once you let it work its magic, this is pure Elliott XO bliss out.

KRS has a sample track available for your perusal:


The entire album is very, very good. Although I hate Pitchfork media with a passion, their review is pretty spot-on:

[i]There’s no sense in burying the lead: This is Jeff Hanson’s second solo album for Kill Rock Stars and, yes, he still sounds like a woman; often uncannily so. Which is not to say that Hanson’s a fey moonchild in the style of a Marc Bolan or Devendra Banhart, nor does he channel the powerhouse androgyny of Boy George or Antony and the Johnsons.

Nevertheless, when his voice first emerges nearly a minute into the ravishing slow-burn of the opening “Losing a Year”, its tone is breathy and angelic enough to make Art Garfunkel sound like Bon Scott, and so startlingly feminine that you might jump to verify that you haven’t cued up a lost Cat Power record by mistake. Once the initial shock of his vocal timbre subsides, however, Hanson’s meditative arrangements and skillful pop craftsmanship come to the fore, and underpin the album with artful, dazzling folk-rock that recalls the heady, early-70s L.A. orchestrations of Joni Mitchell or Judee Sill.

Expanding ambitiously on the expressive sincerity of his 2003 solo debut Son, Hanson has here decked his songs out in full chamber-pop regalia. With assistance from co-producer and arranger A.J. Mogis-- who has previously lent his various talents to such acts as Bright Eyes, Rilo Kiley, and the Faint-- most of the tracks on Jeff Hanson veritably drip with vibrant layers of piano, violin, accordion, and cello, giving the album a sumptuous breadth of detail. The most obvious recent touchstone is Elliott Smith’s XO, but throughout the album Hanson displays the exquisite patience and subtlety to allow his songs to blossom gradually which, coupled with his extraordinary voice, should help establish him wholly as an artist of distinction.

Built on a base of fiercely strummed acoustic guitar, the aforementioned “Losing a Year” climbs methodically over the course of nearly eight minutes before cresting in a spirited full-group swell, while tracks like “Welcome Here” and “Long Overdue” are constructed around lush, two-fisted piano chords that carry the snap and jangle of vintage AM gold. Hanson showcases some deft folk picking on quieter cuts like “Now We Know” or “Let You Out” that, though they wouldn’t have sounded out of place on Son, still possess an animated Rubber Soul appeal. And on “This Time It Will” he even takes a pass at sprightly alt-country, its breezy twang clipping along briskly like a colt out for its morning run.

As with his previous work, seemingly every song here sets about the gentle archeology of brushing the sand from past relationships to re-examine every minute detail, with each track addressed to some nameless “you.” At times this can give Jeff Hanson a certain uncomfortable sense of personal invasion, but perhaps this feeling is just a natural effect of Hanson’s entrancing voice, an otherworldly instrument likely able to make nearly anything sound as intimate as a lover’s whisper.

-Matthew Murphy, February 28, 2005