Picks and Pans Review: Finally Woken
People are waking up and taking notice of this Welsh singer-songwriter. She cowrote a song with Madonna (“Nothing Fails”) that appeared on the latter’s American Life last year, Dave Matthews signed her to his ATO label, and The O.C. has featured her music. Jem’s first full-length CD shows why she has the buzz to go along with her celestial vocals and cool trip-hop beats. The result is an edgier version of another one-named U.K. export, Dido. Jem (full name: Jemma Griffiths) is a former deejay and promoter who came up from the U.K.’s underground club scene, and her disc plays like a groovy mix tape, with atmospheric electronica, chilled-out hip-hop, lilting reggae and kitschy pop. She even experiments with a chorale arrangement on the entrancing opener “They,” which incorporates a bit of Bach’s Prelude in F Minor, while going all folkie on the pretty, acoustic-guitar-laden ballad “Flying High.” Even when her lyrics occasionally dip into cliché (“Today’s the first day of the rest of your life” on the title track), Jem’s alluring sounds will keep listeners from nodding off.