Countless artists pour their hearts and souls into making the "next big record". A precious few sell millions, some have maintained a comfortably small fan base, and others never rise from obscurity. But all are susceptible to one possible dubious fate: The shelf of your local thrift store. These poor unwanted remnants of the past grace the shelves of your Goodwills, your Salvation Armys, your local mom & pop shop, waiting to be rediscovered... to be loved once again.

Over my years of thrift store scouring, I gradually began to notice certain discs and records that repeatedly reveal themselves on nearly every visit to any location. It left me wondering: Why are these select albums so often discarded, what led them to this point, and will the recognition and love for them ever be renewed once again? Now I can confidently answer YES. I bestow unto you, an appreciation for all discs left behind: "Thrift Store Albums."

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Jewel: Pieces of You

Many of us can thank Jewel that we never throw our wet towels on the floor anymore. But whether you take her domestic advice to heart, there's no denying that Alaskan-raised Jewel Kilcher's debut 1995 album was a surprise smash hit, buoyed by it's bouncy, coffee-shop friendly, yet oddly offbeat opening track, "Who Will Save Your Soul."

Swinging between wispy speak-singing and kermit the frog-like throaty balladeering, these tunes would feel right at home in front of Ross and Rachel at the "Central Perk". Yet, just as you're stepping comfortably into the water, we're thrown for a loop on the second track with a live recording (we discover upon hearing applause at the end) of the title track, which asks, "You say he's a faggot... do you hate him, 'cuz he's pieces of you?" Woah. Guess this is more than eggs, pancakes, and maple syrup. (See "You Were Meant for Me")

Not just a guitar plucker, Jewel also unleashed the decidedly still goddam heart-wrenching, "Foolish Games", highlighted by that piano intro that every budding keyboard player just had to learn how to plunk out. The rest is filled with passable, reverb soaked, uncommonly minimal and slightly-baby-voiced acoustic folk numbers.

Despite a comfortably consistent career since, Jewel's album sales would never reach near the stunning (and likely unreachable) 12x platinum levels of her debut. And with so many copies in circulation in the nearly 20-years since, it's not entirely surprising that this fine little piece of middle-aged daytime mix radio-friendly fare ended up on so many thrift store shelves. It's aged shockingly well. That opening bass line is still as groovy as it ever was, and although I picture her cringing listening back on her perhaps amateurish vocal theatrics, there's an undeniably unique charm that brings an innocent character to the decidedly heavy (at times a bit heavy-handed) themes.

If nothing else, cue up "You Were Meant For Me" at random for your significant-other, and tell me their eyes don't light up with warm nostalgia. It was just the right touch of anti-diva folk-fare at just the right time, and sometimes timing makes all the difference.

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