City Beach

Jill Cunniff

The Militia Group, 2007

REVIEW BY: Sean McCarthy


Luscious Jackson’s blend of sweet and sinister hip-hop-infused beats resulted in back-to-back slow-burning masterpieces, Natural Ingredients and Fever In Fever Out on the Beastie Boys’ now-defunct Grand Royal label. Favoring motherhood over cramped touring vans and diminishing album sales, my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Jackson bowed out in 2000.

Seven years later, Jill Cunniff has dropped a chill-out valentine to beach dwelling just as winter continues to hammer her city of Brooklyn.

Listening to Cunniff’s first full-length solo album since her band disbanded is very much like listening to a Luscious Jackson album. You have Cunniff’s frequent New York City references. You also have Cunniff’s distinct, airy vocals over a backdrop of smart, jazzy hip-hop loops. But on City Beach, Cunniff experiments with Brazilian beats and slows the tempo to create a warm, slightly unfocused soundscape. 

The moment Cunniff’s voice surfaces on City Beach, you remember just how much her voice is missed in modern rock. Cunniff has the ability to exude mellowness without lulling a listener to sleep. Incorporating buzzing guitars, minimalist percussion and a smattering of electronica, songs like “Love is a Luxury” and “Eye Candy” are saccharine-free examples of summer pop perfection.

Unfortunately, much of City’s beats require far more listener mining. It also doesn’t help that her weakest lyrics are on the weakest musical tracks. “When you are feelin low / hear the music let it go,” Cunniff sings over a beat that sounds like an outtake from a Thievery Corporation album. The disc ends abruptly with the flat “Disconnection,” which features a woefully underutilized Emmylou Harris.

City Beach does reward with patient listens. Cunniff’s enthusiasm for her city and the healing power of recreation is infectious. While City may lack in immediacy, it makes up for in its quirky charm.

Rating: C+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


© 2007 Sean McCarthy and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of The Militia Group, and is used for informational purposes only.