photo by Wendy Whitesell

For the opening track of her debut solo album, Closer Than Far , Swiss-American singer/multi-instrumentalist/songwriter Serena Jost performs a cover, Our Town by Iris DeMent. The juxtaposition of the driving rhythm and Serena’s lilting, melodic vocal delivery sets the tone for a collection of material filled with contrast, whilst referencing a theme which becomes recurrent throughout the album — that of locale. In a global era, the lyrics of Our Town and many of the ensuing original compositions evoke the feeling of being somewhere, somewhere Closer Than Far.

Serena, an active participant in the New York turn of the century music scene, consolidates her years of experience and influences here, bringing together a variety of styles under the umbrella of a sound which is uniquely hers, yet enjoyably familiar.  There are elements of folk, blues, country, new wave, classical, rock and funk — in fact, something for everyone! An accomplished classical guitarist, Serena is also a renowned cellist, having been a member of the art rock group Rasputina; the flourishes of cello throughout the album are the icing on the cake, setting this material apart from the singer/songwriter genre and bringing regular highlights to the songs, including a long, haunting instrumental passage on  I Wait  in which the cello engages in a dialog with Julian Maile‘s virtuosity on guitar in a melody that conjures images of tango dancers in the American south.  Serena’s band is not to be overlooked on this album, and in addition to Maile’s often soaring guitar work, bassist Brad Albetta and drummer Colin Brooks give committed performances throughout under the exquisite production of Albetta. The final track on the album, Stowaway, Serena revisits the theme of the importance of a place to call home; her vocals are at their most delicate and wistful — the lyric I’m so exposed crystallizes the honesty with which she has revealed her innermost musings on this deeply personal album, inviting the listener to join her in an intimate musical experience which promises to become richer with every consecutive listen.

Paula Henderson

Closer Than Far available here