Jade McNelis All the Fables

Good songwriter, pretty voice, talented player — why is it that such nice parts often add up to such detestable wholes? It’s tempting to write Jade McNelis off at first listen; she has the wispy, well-trained voice that is so frequently annoying, and her songs are benign and piano-based. A double take, however, is in order, as there’s something that sets her apart from all the stereotypes, and it’s not just being young (20) and well connected (the Dears’ Murray Lightburn plays on the record and Stars’ Chris Seligman serves as co-producer). Her songs are sophisticated and steady but her fine use of pop hooks save them from being dull. At times, she borrows unexpectedly from jazz or new wave, and her low-key genre hopping gives her songs new dimensions. Everything is tasteful and subdued rather than saccharine or forced, and while sometimes McNelis’s music teeters on the brink of adult contemporary, it quickly picks itself up again with a bittersweet chord or lick. Jade McNelis has a great deal of potential, even if she lacks a distinct vision of her own. Receptionist radio audiences could do much, much worse. (Good Fences)