We begin with an emphatic one-two punch: an itchy guitar line borrowed from 1979 and a lead vocal of heart-melting purity. Kendall Jane Meade has one of those voices that makes me stop in my tracks—all the more so because she doesn’t stop in hers; she sings with a fetching matter-of-factness I much prefer to the vocal preening we often get from people who know they have a good voice.
The entire song is a wonderfully matter-of-fact exercise, in fact: verse-chorus-verse, with an instrumental break, all finished in little over two minutes. It’s a tight little package of a song, with a pop-rock heart that feels either anachronistic or timeless here in 2013 (it’s a fine line sometimes), but it is Meade most assuredly who holds it together. In the right frame of listening mind, small moments of phrasing can be thrilling; me, I love how Meade ever so slightly delays the word “pity” (0:21), I love how plumply she manages to sing the not-easily-singable word “cost” (first at 0:35), and I love the one time she lets her voice unleash a tiny bit, in the phrase “clearer to me” (0:51), and how that moment highlights the clarity of words to follow like “wrong” (0:59) and “song” (1:01). It can be the small, small moments that turn a small song into something deep and delightful.
“Cost/Amount” is one of four songs on the Cost/Amount EP, released this week on Kiam Records, the New York-based label founded and run by singer/songwriter Jennifer O’Connor. Meade has been performing as Mascott since back in 1998, and has worked additionally with lots of other folks, including Sparklehorse, the Spinanes, and Helium. One interesting bit of music industry trivia is that Meade herself used to run Red Panda Records and once upon a time (okay, in 2005) released a Jennifer O’Connor album there. (Bonus trivia: a song from that album was featured here at the time; we come full circle, sort of.) The Cost/Amount EP by the way features three other songs, one of which is a fetching cover of “They Don’t Know,” one of Kirsty MacColl’s lasting gifts to the world.
photo credit: Debora Francis