Just as Kate Bush did in early rock and Bjork remains a master of, many artists are branching out with a common rock and roll root: To break of all tradition and not be afraid of experimenting, for it is the essence of modern art.
Back in the ninties when artists such as Enya and Yanni offered calming approaches that are nowhere near classical music, they all got crammed into the now-fizzled out category New Age, for the lack of a category one was made to accomodate the 'others.' However, after the gushing of many such artists from Air to Tori Amos, music fans started to notice that this upheaval of new sounds is only the byproduct of the rebeliousness that is rock and pop.
Jem, an up-and-coming modern pop artist, has delivered an EP earlier titled It All Starts Here that showcased far less than what her complete effort, Finally Woken, does. This debut from the Welsh artist, is of no category but borrows heavily from popular genres. A tribute to folk on the lullaby "Flying High" and trip-hop on "Come On Closer." Jem also plays with urban beats with "They" and the reggae-tinted "Save Me."
The fusion of genres is so unique that one song, "24," starts out borrowing from Ani DiFranco strummings then meandering into heavy theatrical instrumentation and then, all of a sudden, right before the chorus sharp guitars bring in edgy rock. All without sounding a tad bit overboard.
Of course Jem's voice plays a big part by delivering an angelic yet quiet tone to the whole album without sounding unexcitingly bland like Dido's. Instead the meloncholy is delivered with consistancy on "Missing You" and "Falling For You," while the giddy is given a kindergarten innocence on the highlight track "Wish I."
"Stay Now" is a masterpiece in its own right, reminiscent of Beth Orton's past victories.
Finally Woken is a complete effort with an assortment of defiant tunes for everbody. Jem (no relation to the fabulous cartoon superhero)is a promising new artist. Skip the EP sampler by Jem and grab a copy of the album and enjoy the many pleasures of the underdog.