Jenny Berkel’s had four albums to cement her stature as a stunning vocalist—and she proves yet again how deserving she is of that descriptor on her fifth release and sophomore LP, Pale Moon Kid.
Produced by her sometimes band/tour mate Daniel Romano (she’s toured Europe with his band Trillium) and with help from Berkel’s sister, Kay, the eleven songs are a muted cascade of notes, bowing before Berkel’s voice. It’s hard to avoid comparison’s to Canada’s other noted minimalist vocalist, Coeur de Pirate, on some songs—though Berkel comes out richer and deeper, filling her bittersweet reflections with power.
Haunting “Half Dream” opens without preamble as Berkel lays out the scene, “It’s the third of November and winter/rattles doorways as it gets colder.” Her memories, charting her drifting years between rural Ontario, Winnipeg, Toronto and eventually Montreal, give something real to these tableaus and for all that the weather has finally turned, there’s a crisp bite in the air that blows in with the opener.
No less melancholic, “St Denis” sees Berkel’s voice soar over sparse accompaniment, captivating as she climbs and falls over the melodic chorus. Even the steely notes on “Wealth in the Country” can’t compete as she keeps time with a deep percussion that only adds another, otherworldly layer to the performance.
As her voice sinks over the line “You keep it low, you keep it low” on “Lilac, lily” and the music murmurs along with her, Pale Moon Kid finds new ways to mesmerize. “Winnipeg” sways between lullaby and rock song—both sides equally enchanting—while “Tall Tales” builds up to the chorus sounding a decade older and just as edgy.
As it winds down from “Green Coat” to “Pale Moon,” that nod to the past grows stronger as the former waltzes through the transition and sashays to the sensual “I Wrote a Disguise (For You).” But it’s the simple superposition on the finale that truly shows off how sublime Berkel’s voice really is—smooth, full, and oh so beguiling.
Top Tracks: “Lilac, Lily”; “St Denis”
Rating: Proud Hoot (Really Good)