The mini-bio on Emily Jane Powers' Bandcamp page used to say something along the lines of, "Emily Jane Powers is a Chicago indie pop artist who plays guitar, violin, keys, drums, and sings. She also teaches math." I loved that. Nowadays, the second sentence reads, "While she incorporates aspects of 60s pop, folk, and punk into her music, she has never looked to any influence but herself for a sense of direction."
The first recording of hers I heard was a cover of The Ramones' "Sheena Is a Punk Rocker." I forget where I downloaded it from, but wherever it was, they credited the song to "Yellow Mica Recordings." Whereas the original bops along with Wall of Sound cheeriness, Powers' version has a melancholy edge honed sharply with acoustic guitar, piano and strings.
I have listened to The Ramones' "Sheena Is a Punk Rocker" countless times, so I loved the fact that someone had taken a song I knew so well, a song that's a major part of the punk rock canon, and turned it on its head. Powers'version popped up on my iPod enough times, I finally decided I needed to find out who this woman was.
A quick Google search gave me, as always, what I needed. Since then, I've downloaded two of Powers' many albums, and plan to listen to the others and grab at least two more. She's prolific, that's for sure. She has 10 albums available on her Bandcamp page, recorded over the past dozen years.
Her music is sometimes sweet and simple like the Mamas and Papas (those are the ones I like), sometimes a bit too freak-folkish for me, like, I don't know, whoever is annoying in that scene. Overall, though, I like her aesthetic and DIY attitude.
Here are a few samples:
Powers shares a sensibility with other women whose music I've found myself drawn to in recent years: She & Him (a duo featuring actress Zooey Deschanel), Arthur & Yu (a male/female duo that no longer exists) and First Aid Kit (a sister act from Sweden).
I'm not sure where this new musical leaning comes from. Don't get me wrong, I still rock out, still thrive on playing air guitar to The Descendents' Milo Goes to College album:
And I spend a lot of time listening to neo-twangy stuff like Lydia Loveless:
There's something about the harmonies, the longing in their voices, the deceptive simplicity of the music that gets me with artists like Powers, She & Him and First Aid Kit. It all goes back to Nancy Sinatra, I guess. I listened to her quite a bit during my 1988 road trip, and while I don't listen to her much any more, I always like hearing "These Boots Were Made for Walkin'" or "Sugar Town" when they pop up on my iPod.
The math just adds up for me.