An epiphany song, one which describes “an experience of sudden and striking realization” (thanks, Wikipedia). It begins with a distorted vocal inflection (if Jenny’s saying an actual word here, I can’t figure it out) and then goes into a churchy-y organ bit, appropriate for a song describing a self-baptism (or re-baptism). The occasion for this reckoning is left ambiguous–“I’ve been wearing all black/Since the day it started” is as specific as she gets–but whatever happened (perhaps it was no more than an extended period of self-examination) has occasioned a transformation: “I’m not the same woman that you are used to.” The walls have come down and the song’s narrator has rejected the past, thrown her clothes away in the trash, pushed her own head down under the baptismal waters and emerged a different person.

The revelation she’s brought back isn’t especially remarkable, and is perhaps more useful as a reminder to herself, a mantra through which she can remember the journey:

     There’s a little bit of magic
     Everybody has it
     There’s a little bit of sand left in the hourglass  

In Broadway musicals, epiphany songs work fine because the curtain comes down. But the problem with singer-songwriter epiphany songs is, now that you’ve told us how much you’ve changed and are seeing the world as a new person with new eyes, why do so many of your other songs cover pretty much the same ground you’ve always covered? 

On the rest of “The Voyager,” the album on which this is the lead track, Jenny writes in her usual wry and spiky way about her usual topics: identity, self-determination, aging, the struggle not to internalize society’s expectations of being a woman while at the same time finding some of those expectations reasonable and appealing, and of course underperforming boyfriends, usually musicians, and the commitment/fidelity/relationship-definition problems attendant upon them. By the final song, it’s not only “magic” that’s in everyone, but something Jenny calls “the voyager,” a reference (I assume!) to the unmanned rocket probes that still float out there somewhere in deep space: an image of restlessness and constant searching, rather than of epiphany, destination.  

Still, it’s a great album, one of my favorites of the year so far. The slick, big-dial production from Ryan Adams and Beck is uncharacteristic but serves the catchy and insistent songs well: I imagine them having fun as they sat around trying to figure out and replicate some of Lindsay Buckingham’s tricks. Jenny’s vocals sound terrific even on the weaker songs like “Aloha and the Three Johns” and “Love U Forever,” and “Late Bloomer” is just a terrific piece of songwriting. So I guess it’s okay if Jenny’s new eyes still tend to see the same stuff.

voyager

 

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