Secret Life of a Girl – Christine Tobin

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Christine Tobin is an oddball. She falls somewhere in the vast divide between jazz music and everything else, and she manipulates the form enough so that her music is largely unclassifiable as either straight pop or traditional jazz.

She’s a kind of avant-garde interpreter of song, and she bends the rules of trad jazz and lets some post-modernisms seep in. She possesses a big voice, but doesn’t employ it constantly. Her best moments are when she holds back, sustaining a note without overpowering it. The quirky opener, “Bye Bye,” which comes off like a silly alterna-pop song, is not indicative of the rest of the record. “Camille,” a jazz piano tune, with a striking violin accompaniment, is hard to place, impossible to pin down, and it speaks for the album as a whole. “Corner Of An Eye” is smooth and slithery; a smart song that feels timeless and largely removed from the musical context of 2008. Although you can’t get around Tori Amos and the sad piano on “Dreamland,” Tobin finds a way to give each track her signature. And she has an earthy quality, for lack of a better term, that lends depth to the sadness found in some of these songs.

There’s a pointless sing/speak cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Everybody Knows,” and she also covers Rufus Wainwright’s “Poses.” (It would be nice if he could ever locate a melody among all the notes he’s composed.) Here her interpretation does nothing to make the uncomfortable-ness any less uncomfortable. Other than those, it’s a winner. Booklet includes lyrics, but more track info would have been nice.