On The Download: Jill Sobule

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I've been a fan of Jill Sobule for quite some time. She's always flown just under the radar in the music industry, but she has always been a well-respected songwriter and her true fans have stuck with her from the beginning. After all, she IS the girl who "Kissed A Girl" when Katy Perry was still merely in grade school.

In Jill's new album, "California Years," she pulled much of her inspiration from her move to Los Angeles from New York. 

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Fed up with the downward spiral of the music industry after her last two labels went out of business, last year she decided to take things into her own hands and seek funding from her fans so she could produce her next album (with a goal of $75,000 — which she reached and surpassed).

There were several different levels of donations in which Jill graciously repaid her fans as only she knew how. Ten dollars got you a free digital download of the album, while $500 got your name mentioned in a song. Ten thousand was the ultimate donation where you were able to come in and sing on Jill's CD.

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As an avid listener of her music, I was excited to see her intimate performance at The Largo at Coronet in West Hollywood recently. She was poised, polished and ready to have a good time. And she had us cracking up the entire night. She serenaded her fans with some of her old tunes like "Lucy at the Gym," "The Rapture," and "Karen By Night." (Even taking requests from the audience!) The highlight was when she brought her mother up on stage for a little singing/rapping duet.

As for the album, "California Years" is Jill at her best. The entire LP explores a musician who has been jilted and disillusioned by the "industry." Yet, her sense of humor about it all shows her unwavering resilience. She's not afraid to be vulnerable and she's not afraid to be honest. As a songwriter, she doesn't mess around. She speaks the truth in literal phrases, without hiding behind secret inside jokes or changing anyone's name. She lays it all out for her audience to do with it as they please.

On the album's opener, "Palm Springs," Jill sings of traveling to the desert for the sole purpose of having a spiritual moment or finding inspiration to write a song. She knows something's gonna happen to change her world. But all she really found were outlet malls, a hotel that was "different than on the Web site," a statue of Sonny Bono and she found that it was much too hot to go hiking. After turning around and heading to the ocean. But even though nothing happened to her there, she definitely got a beautiful, insightful song out of it.

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In the all-too-true, in-your-face "Nothing To Prove," it's the lyrics that make this song great. It's all about her experience trying to impress people much younger than herself at an LA record company. She's seen it all and experienced it all and realizes she has nothing to prove to them. It's definitely the most clever song on the album. A must-download.

"A Good Life" is an interesting choice for a title seeing as how the song is about the demise of California from an earthquake. But Jill keeps it positive by assuring that, though the world may be ending and the Hollywood sign may be crumbling, it was still a good life.

"Wendell Lee," which is about her previous relationships, is all true and uses all real names, including the infamous "Jenny" she wrote about in her first hit, "I Kissed A Girl" nearly fifteen years ago.

No true album about California would be complete without an homage to the men and women who dress up as famous characters outside Grauman's Chinese Theater in Hollywood. "Spiderman" explores the life of a struggling actor dressing up as the famous comic book character for tips. Jill, once again, observes simple, everyday people and manages to create a world for them.

The album closes with the simple "Donor Song" where Jill sings the names of those fans who donated a significant amount money to her album. A year ago, she made a promise to her fans that the donations would be worth it. And it was. She gave the fans exactly what they wanted.

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