Instead of leading this review with a genre tag, I just want you all to know that Jen Hawley has an amazing voice. That’s the most important part of this album; Jen Hawley can sing! Fans of pop-flavored music with aspects of several subgenres should definitely give this one a chance. Let me explain.
The opening track “Handed Heaven” has a cool, soulful energy and a blues style. The lyrics are about someone who handed heaven to a relationship. The horns are great accents, but Hawley’s emotional vocal hits just right here.
The second track is the classic “Will the Circle Be Unbroken” but it is significantly reimagined here. The production feels much more experimental than gospel. It’s not for the traditionalists, but people who like unconventional twists on classic music will enjoy it.
The title track “Fragile” comes in the third spot with a contemplative adult contemporary style. There are some pop and jazzy elements blending together on this one. It’s got an emotional sensibility to it, focusing on the pain of a breakup. “Why does the dark bleed into the light?” The focus is on that broken feeling right before things get better.
“The Moment” has a moving piano part that propels the song along nicely. The genre on this one would probably also be adult contemporary. The production decision to adapt and layer the vocal really makes the song go in a different direction than the rest of the album. It’s an experimental and unique sound that is unlike anything I’ve heard before.
“Eloise” has a beautiful piano-driven style with a uniquely dark melodic construct that really stands out. It’s a song dedicated to a best friend with blends of nostalgia and tragic sadness. Similarly “Sorrow For a Friend” feels appropriately sorrowful in both the melodic structure and overall mood. As it is instrumental it’s not clear if it is connected to the previous track, but it could be.
The penultimate track is “Sic Vita,” a bluesy and artsy folk tune with layered, complex dimensions. The vocal comes through on this one with a much more mysterious style. The final song “Words and Songs” takes a different turn toward a worship and prayerful tone. It’s a nice, calming and comforting way to end the album.
All told, Jen Hawley’s gift is her voice. This album does a nice job of highlighting that voice in several different subgenres of pop from jazz, blues, and adult contemporary. The lyrical themes take on some difficult life circumstances with grace and sensitivity. Many listeners will find comfort from the vocals and the reflective lyrics on Jen Hawley‘s album Fragile.