Jenny Omnichord
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Jenny Omnichord

Guelph, Ontario, Canada | SELF

Guelph, Ontario, Canada | SELF
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Reviews:: Jenny Omnichord - Charlotte or Otis: Duets For Children

As you may have been informed by the preponderance of holiday specials on your television, or the holiday muzak that is in full effect no matter where you go, the holiday season is well and truly upon us. As such, I'm in a giving mood. Specifically, I'm here to give you the perfect gift idea for that hardest of hard individual on your listen: the Canadian indie music fan with children. Believe me, that group is a hard group of chestnuts to crack (or roast), so I give you Charlotte or Otis: Duets For Children by Jenny Omnichord & friends.

I don't mind telling you I had no idea what to expect from this album. I knew Jenny Omnichord to be the pre-eminent source of Omnichord-powered, quirky pop songs in this country, but I wasn`t sure if an album of her singing kids songs, even with the assistance of Canadian indie stars like Tony Dekker and Old Man Luedecke, would be something I`d prefer to expose my progeny to. It turns out, it is. Often artists tend to overdo the "kid-ness", for lack of a better term, when attempting to make songs for kids, and this usually results in songs most adults would prefer to never hear again after humouring the kids with an initial listen. But Jenny, and her assembled guests, have put together a collection of fun, heartfelt songs, with simple melodies that should appeal to both kids and their parents.

Album opener Charlotte or Otis, which features Jenny's baby daddy, lead two minute miracle worker Andy Maggofin is a great example of why I like this album. The song itself is bouncy and cheerful, which should appeal to kids, but the story of how they found out Jenny was pregnant earlier this year, while really rather endearing, will likely only be enjoyed by their son once he's long out of diapers. That said, there are plenty of songs with kid-centric subject matter, like the alien bug-eating extravaganza of Planet Zorn, which features Kim Barlow, and my favorite song on the album, Do You Know Karate?, which features not only Tony Dekker, but Wu-Tang-esque fighting sound effects, which is truly a winning combo.

There are also some just plain fun songs, like the Shad & Jenny rap along The Old Prince, which revives Shad's persona from his much lauded recent album. I also enjoy the peppy Sleep Rockin', which features Islander Jim Guthrie, and My Baby's Pregnant which features the hill-approved banjo stylings of Chester's banjo king, Old Man Luedecke. Even the rather intense Chris Adeney, aka Wax Mannequin takes a tender turn for the kids on Lady Moon.

If you have kids, or know someone else that is Doodlebopped out, give Charlotte or Otis a chance. It is really a sweet little labour of love that adults may actually appreciate more than kids, but it's certainly something to put on while you and the kids kick it. And you can take my word for it, I'm a dad after all, the Ack can back me up on that. - Hero Hill


Jenny Omnichord
Bad Luck (Label Fantastic)
by Sue Carter Flinn
Jenny Mitchell is tiny: live, she's a physically wee specimen perched on a chair with her instrument on her lap. But Bad Luck is a big release for the Guelph indie imp and former Barmitzvah Brother. A full band (including vocals by Halifax's Andrew Sisk) showcases Mitchell's fragile voice and her beloved omnichord, providing needed depth without flattening any of Mitchell's signature quirkiness. More of a storyteller than a songwriter, Mitchell pens off-kilter tales about real-life concerns like pregnancy, childbirth, relationship and touring woes. There are lullabies (Theoretical Love Song) and metaphysical speculations (Skeletal Polyamory), but most surprisingly, there's a club-worthy synth dance tune (Lifeline), too. - The Coast



Sometimes as soon as you read about a record label and the acts associated with it, you're going to get a clue regarding what to expect from any and all output said label will release in the future. Label Fantastic! is the perfect example of such a phenomenon; staffed by Mathias Kom (a.k.a. The mastermind behind The Burning Hell), Chris Adeney (better known as Wax Mannequin), Gillian Manford (Miss Quite Contrary) and Jenny Mitchell (Jenny Omnichord), LF! is an artist-operated indie label and listeners familiar with the prior output attached to those names have already begun to develop a profile of what they're going to get.

In the case of Jenny Omnichord's first album through the imprint, those expectations aren't only met, they're exceeded.

Sounding like a more instrumentally competent Kimya Dawson, Mitchell turns the ordinary into something extraordinary on All Our Little Bones. From the moment “Bad Luck” open the record (choice lyrics: “Your window breaks so it won't roll down at the toll booth where you have to pay/and the power goes out on th stage at the bar just before you're supposed to play”) the magic spills out of Jenny Mitchell with all the ease of a simply played piano and little else – but it will have listeners clamoring to pick up every last precious piece because it's disarming in its simplicity and everyone listening knows that such things don't come along every day.

The simplicity continues to spin gold as “Blankets And Bones” enjoys nature from the windows of a perpetually-broken tour van, Omnichord's keyboard's take over for “Thinking Of You” in order to convert the song from a romantic ballad to an off-kilter and romantically absurd one before the singer tells her own exciting tale of tracking down Randy Bachman on some networking site like Facebook (in “Randy B Found Me”). Both in print and on the surface as the record plays all of this sounds incredibly simple and poppy but, as the record progresses, listeners get the impression that the songs aren't as simple as they appear; there are solid and scintillating structures to be found in the spare presentation of these twelve songs and listeners will find themselves unable to turn away from them until they're able to figure out how they work so well. That search continues to hold in listeners even as the gang chorus in “Skeletal Polyamory” causes hearts to swell and “Theoretical Love Song” sings a child to sleep in addition to bidding listeners farewell and good night. It's a very unusual and abstract emotional arc that Jenny Mitchell has presented here, but certainly an engaging one too because, at each turn, listeners remain right in-step with the singer's fantastic musings, cheering her on. Here's hoping that Jenny Omnichord releases another record soon; those listeners that find All Our Little Bones will be eagerly awaiting it. - Ground Control Mag


By Vish KhannaNobody puts Jenny Omnichord in a corner, least of all herself or her moniker, which she transcends on All Our Little Bones by employing a band to push her into a new realm. Observational and self-absorbed as a songwriter, Jenny has fitfully been documenting her experiences as a new, young mother in her latest work. While 2008's Charlotte or Otis: Duets for Children, Their Parents, and Other People Too dealt with her fears and confusion about impending motherhood, a number of Bones songs cover the reality of taking care of a young son in Jenny Omnichord's topsy-turvy world. Hell, even the vinyl packaging is a three-panel gatefold that doubles as a cross-Canada map/board game that's fit for toddlers wondering where their parents' tour has taken them. Backed by some Barmitzvah Brothers, Two-Minute Miracles and J.J. Ipsen, among others, Jenny Omnichord's at her most dynamic on All Our Little Bones, a playfully heartfelt confrontation of adulthood.
(Label Fantastic) - Exclaim!


Discography

Albums:
2006: Cities of Gifts and Ghosts
Featuring 13 tracks, each recorded and produced by a different Canadian producer, including Andy Magoffin, Don Kerr, Scott Merritt, and Bob Wiseman
Songs available for streaming at: http://radio3.cbc.ca/artists/Jenny-Omnichord and http://myspace.com/jennyomnichord

2008: Charlotte or Otis: Duets for Children, their parents, and other people too
Featuring 18 duets with songwriters from across Canada, including Shad, Old Man Luedecke, Kim Barlow, Jim Guthrie, Ton Dekker, and Andrew Penner (Sun Parlour Players)
Songs available for streaming at: http://radio3.cbc.ca/artists/Jenny-Omnichord and http://myspace.com/jennyomnichord

2010: All Our Little Bones
Full length vinyl record with a full backing band. Packaging doubles as a "Cross-Canada Board Game" complete with game pieces.
Songs available for streaming at: http://radio3.cbc.ca/artists/Jenny-Omnichord and http://myspace.com/jennyomnichord

EPs:
2003: Six song EP - Jenny Omnichord sings "These Eyes" by the Guess Who

2007: 5 Song EP - Christmas Card EP

2008: 6 song EP - Pregnancy'P

2008: Split 7" with the Burning Hell

Photos

Bio

Jenny Omnichord is perhaps the world's pre-eminant omnichordist, player of a most wonderfully cheesy instrument that was invented almost 30 years ago, yet has tolied in obscurity ever since. Jenny Omnichord has 3 solo albums to her name, 2006's 'Cities of Gifts and Ghosts' which saw her paired-off with 13 different Canadian producers, 2008's adult/children's album 'Charlotte or Otis', which was released simultaneously with the birth of her son (Otis) and featured 18 duets with such diverse and acclaimed artists as Tony Dekker of Great Lake Swimmers, Shad, Jim Guthrie and Old Man Leudecke. Now Jenny has a new album, 'All Our Little Bones' - which doubles as a Cross-Canada board game - that celebrates pregnancy, birth, life, death, and even love beyond the grave. It is an arc that has possibly never been represented in art before, and features Jenny backed by a full band for the first time ever.
Jenny also moonlights with the Burning Hell, and fellow Guelphite Richard Laviolette and the Oil Spills.