What? On her heart-wrenching 2006 record, Over the Mountain, Across the Valley and Back to the Stars, Jennifer O'Connor treads lightly in Elliott Smith territory, mourning the deaths of her two sisters (one from brain cancer, another in a car accident) with acoustic guitar in hand, letting melody soar above sadness. But through catharsis comes acceptance, and on her new record, the John Agnello-produced (Sonic Youth, the Hold Steady) Here With Me, just released on Matador, O'Connor channels life lessons through the lens of a budding lesbian relationship. Newly contented, O'Connor's fresh collection boasts a full backing band and an air of optimism without losing the raw magnetism and knack for empathy of her most introspective and confessional work.
Who? O'Connor traversed the Eastern seaboard fronting an Atlanta-based bandwhen she was fresh out of college, and later, settled in New York City at the break of the new millennium, where her solo career blossomed. Soon she found herself working with Yo La Tengo's James McNew and Spoon's Britt Daniel on various projects, and Here With Me channels the same collaborative energy, featuring accordion from the Hold Steady's Franz Nicolay and vocals from ex-Ben Folds Five drummer and Hotel Lights singer/songwriter, Darren Jessee.
Fun Fact: O'Connor is an avid eBay seller, trading mostly in records collected from Brooklyn stoop sales, and claims to have once sold a few records by experimental composer/songwriter Loren Mazzacane Connors for $200 or $300 to musician/producer Jim O'Rourke, who hoped to then re-master the recordings. Now Watch This: Jennifer O'Connor, "Always in Your Mind"