YOUR PLACE IN THE SUN
To be released on May 31, 2019 (Pavement Entertainment)
Last year, Janet Gardner (formerly of Vixen) released her first solo album. When I heard it, I was floored! Though I love Vixen, it was nothing like Vixen. This was a whole new Janet Gardner. Now, she and her husband / guitarist / producer / songwriting partner, Justin James, are set to release their second album. My first thought was, “If it’s anything like the first one, I was going to love it… ” (spoiler alert: I do).
While there are similarities, in style, to the first record, there are many changes as well. It still shocks me that Janet and Justin write and arrange these songs themselves. These aren’t just simple jam songs. Each include many parts, mood changes, tempo changes, and even time signature changes. The beauty of all of this is that the songs flow so smoothly that you’ll barely notice! All bands write music and put lyrics over it and some even interlink them so well that it’s cohesive but these two have a wonderful ability to deliver a story, along with all of its sentiments, in the form of a song. The marriage of the music and the vocals is so solid that I find myself becoming so invested in the song as a whole; I just sit back being entertained. The background vocals sound great. It’s not just one simple harmony. In parts, you’ll hear a blanket of background vocals. They’re built into the song so well that sometimes you don’t realize they’re there.
Listening to this, you’ll be reminded that Janet’s voice is amazing. Many people can hit the notes but she has such control of her voice that she is able to add so many ‘colors’ to it. Whatever color fits the song — the anger, the pain, the longing — you hear it all in her voice as she conveys that emotion and delivers the story convincingly. Not every singer can do that.
This record has so many flavors. It is like the soundtrack to a movie. No two songs are the same and they are not formulated songs. There are so many different ‘feels’ throughout the record. They not only use each song as an opportunity for a mood change but even each section of the song. It’s amazing how they can just steer you into an emotion and then suddenly, with a part change, grab you, shake you and throw you to the floor! Then, with the next part change, pick you up, brush you off and carry you through the next part of that journey.
Their ability to conjure up so many different moods is impressive! Justin comes up with memorable guitar lines that just make you want to move (and I can’t even dance) and I love that Janet doesn’t stay tied to a basic melody. She’s very good at coming up with a creative melody but so comfortable in them that she will dance around it and sing outside of it but always make her way back to it.
I’ll give you one quick thought relating to each of them.
“Your Place In The Sun” — With a name like that, you’d expect a soft simple song but not here. This is a driving rocker with great guitar, complete with squealing pinch harmonics, dropping to minor chords in the pre-chorus to give the transition a nice dark feel!
“Standing” — A crunchy groove that lays a stylish bed for Janet’s vocals then transforms into a charged chorus with interesting lyrics like “I might be cynical but I’m not scarred.” This is a great ‘can’t hold me down’ song!
“Try” — An acoustic (beautifully sounding acoustic, by the way) song that seems to be a look into how going into a life-long relationship isn’t always cut and dry, that there are worries and doubts but, regardless of the fears of the past, you open yourself up to try. Wow! Janet’s voice in this song is just full of angst, desperation, want…
“Web” — I love the eerie start of this song as well as the changes it makes to reach an energetic chorus. Justin is great at coming up with infectious guitar parts. Whispered background vocals in this one give a nice spooky sound to the song.
“Kicks Me Back” — Whoa! Super catchy song and I’m almost afraid to say it because the ‘C’ word scares some people but, I could see a country rock star doing a version of this song. It’s awesome! I can also see Janet dancing on the stage to this song. “I’ve got a bad habit of love and many times I’ve tried to trick it but every time I’ve tried to kick it, it just kicks me back.” You’ll be singing it too!
“A Way To Your Heart” — Mid tempo, sad sounding song that builds to an inspirational sounding song! I love how they use the power of opposites not only in the lyrics but the sound of music as well “What will it take to find a way to your heart? Do I have to haunt you in your dreams?” Love the solo guitar section! Powerful and mean… then right back to sweet and haunting vocals!
“Should Have Known” — Whew! Another dichotomy. You have to hear this one to believe it!
“Unconditionally” — Good time sounding song that could have been pulled straight from the ’80s. It’s fun listening to this song!
“You Said” — Justin certainly paints the scene with his different guitar parts from the start of this song. Great blanket of background vocals. Some serious mood changes in this song! I’m amazed they can switch moods so smoothly.
“Without You” — Another ‘fun’ happy song to listen to…. musically at least because the lyrics are all about moving on to live life without you! Still, it fits perfectly! Great sing along chorus!
“Flame Thrower” — Why not end with a balls out rocker!? Justin writes some catchy riffs and in my experience, that’s one of the main components to a great song. You hear them and can’t help but get caught up in them, then, Janet comes in singing circles around them. The perfect match!
This is certainly an album worth picking up. I haven’t stopped listening to it since I got it. It’s a fresh sound from all of the other bands out there.
01. Your Place In The Sun
06. Kicks Me Back
07. A Way To Your Heart
08. Should Have Known
10. You Said
11. Without You
12. Flame Thrower
Janet Gardner – lead vocals
Justin James – guitar
Reviewed by Christopher Carroll for Sleaze Roxx, May 2019
Janet Gardner and Justin James‘ Mixing Behind The Scenes 2019 for Your Place In The Sun:
Behind the scenes mix session for “Your Place In The sun”. Release date 5-31-2019 www.Janetgardnermusic.com