Shark enthusiast. Vegan. Girl Scout and Space Camp survivor. Singer-songwriter Jenny Owen Youngs is many things, but ordinary is not one of them. The same can be said for her distinctive sound: Jolie Holland meets Cat Power, shaken and stirred with upright bass thunks, sharp strums and the occasional banjo jangle.
From simple acoustics to stringed arrangements, Youngs' music moves across genres. But it never settles or becomes predictable, making her debut of unlove songs, "Batten the Hatches," a treasure. The Jersey native is an artist on the verge, whose candor and levity radiate even over a telephone line from Los Angeles.
Youngs' choice of music as a way of life seems to have been so natural, she has difficulty tracing its origin. "I just started writing songs," she says.
After flirting with the flute and tuba, Youngs picked up a guitar in middle school from her stepbrother's custom-build-and-repair guitar shop. Years later, she landed a record deal.
Fan buzz began to surround her MySpace page, and her YouTube tour blog is steadily becoming a clamor of critical acclaim. "Some people seem to get something out of my music, and it's great," she says. "It's been supersurreal since things have started happening."
Much of the attention she's received can be attributed to her incredible sense of lyrical intimacy. With words that liken growing love to a tumor and "a parasite bent on devouring its host," Youngs is drawing audiences who revere the songstress as the patron saint of cursed lovers and immediately feel a kinship with her.
Sometimes that connection results in Youngs' plopping down smack in the middle of someone's lap during a show. So far, she says, "I haven't received any complaints."
Youngs says her openness in person and on the Internet has snagged the attention of a few overzealous fans, but, for the most part, has fostered a healthy relationship with her listeners. She advises that people coming to her gig should "wear movement clothing and prepare to be sat on!" S
Jenny Owen Youngs plays Common Groundz with opener Jeremy Fisher Wednesday, Aug. 8. Tickets are $8-$10. 344-8580.