Review: "Clean Hands" by Decker

One of the best experiences in life for a music fan is seeing an artist you've never heard of before and being absolutely blown away. "Who is this? Are they selling their album at the merch table? Where are they from? How have I never heard them before??"

That was me two years ago when I saw Jane Smith's Belle Histoire play their second show ever at the now-defunct Mad Hatter.  "That voice," I thought. "How is this girl only a teenager? Her lyrics sound like she's more mature than me."

Back then, not knowing anything about Jane, it was surprising.  Now, with Belle Histoire's three releases in my ears and having met Jane several times, I know that her vocal talent and maturity aren't anything to be surprised about. That's just Jane Smith.

Which brings us to the present. Jane just released a solo album of sorts under the moniker of Decker.  This six-song collection, titled Clean Hands, is exactly what I've come to expect out of Jane -- powerful vocals, great storytelling, and a mastery of words that most her age can't even begin to approach.

The EP's first two songs -- "Clean Hands" and "Swing" -- pack the biggest emotional punch. Melancholy folk-rock tunes punctuated by Jane's haunting lilt and some well-placed percussion make these songs my two favorite tracks.

"Better" has moments of Elizabeth & The Catapult and Jem sprinkled throughout.  Few instruments play into it as most of the tune is held together by Jane's voice in the background and handclap percussion.

"Old Houses" is a straightforward folk track, steel guitar included.  Jane's enunciation even adopts a southern twang. Lyrically, it tells the tale of a couple who's going through a rough patch and their history together.

"Favorite Little Dream" is the perfect daydream soundtrack - simple electric guitar line, some brush drumming, a xylophone accent, and Jane crooning about her crush.

The collection finishes off with a strictly acoustic song called "Tearing At The Seams" that would be a great fit for a coming-of-age indie movie soundtrack. The song speaks to anyone who's struggling against themselves and others to reach their aspirations.

Clean Hands is what a Jane Smith solo album should be - a compilation of minimalistic songs spanning a range of genres that allows her voice and lyricism to shine.  I highly recommend checking it out and following Jane's career.  She's shown there's a lot to see.

Listen to Decker's single "Swing" below, or buy the whole album on iTunes.