I love the music of Sara Bareilles, so when I saw her playlist on iTunes this morning, I had to take a listen. Anyone who has iTunes should shuffle through Bareilles' list. She nods to such great artists as Javier Dunn, Nick Drake, Aqualung, Soulive, and Rihanna (you can't forget Rihanna). The most interesting choice (in my opinion) was "Incline" by Raining Jane, a band I had never heard of until this morning. They're a quartet of girls from L.A. who have a very distinct musical sound. They make melodic rock with folk influences, but the pieces that form the whole are much more eclectic then the "genre" sounds.
The latest album by Raining Jane is Paper Nest, and it begins with "Prelude" a soaring, humming introduction with the lyrics "I feel it coming like a memory" swirling around the listener. "Incline" is the first full-length song, and it has an intensity and strength that does not hide the femininity of the vocals. Subtlety is the strength of Raining Jane. Where most hard rock songs are bombastic and in your face, "Incline" has a subtlety that is refreshing and may stem from Raining Jane's unique combination of folk and hard rock aesthetics. "Broken Parts" reminds me of k.d. lang. It's a folk song with heartfelt emotion, not just hokey sentimentality. The lyric, "Let's talk about what we're afraid of, why we hide love..." sums up the entire song, and then there's a cello solo (yummy). "Clementine" uses glockenspiel and harmonies to create a warm and playful feeling, while the lyrics cover the heavy topics of war and love. "Pinball" takes a percussive approach to rough and tumble rock 'n roll, while "Castles and Factories" has a very 1980's rhythm with lyrics that celebrate imagination and the power of dreams. "Desperate Sails" is almost spoken word poetry, with music that floats underneath "big question" lyrics. "Everything we want is not what we need, we're leaning on the love that's in between" is one line that particularly caught my attention, but the lyrics in "Desperate Sails" are very well-written overall, and the music is equally exceptional. The final song on Paper Nest is "Browntown" and it's a sitar heavy bhangra tune that serves as an outro of sorts.
Raining Jane is an incredibly talented band that have created a sound that's distinct without being inaccessible. The songs are rock 'n roll and folk with multicultural influences, and they are never boring, but always smooth and complete pockets of sound. I can see why Sara Bareilles was so impressed.