Sharon Hagopian, a quiet and reserved elementary school music teacher, has an alter ego, Cannonball Jane. When she's not teaching the younger set about quarter notes and treble clefs, she's making music that's a wonderful hybrid of 60s harmonies and modern-day electronica. Comparisons have been made to Solex and Julie Ruin, and while those are certainly apt, I'd like to think that she's much more of an electronica-version of Aislers Set--you know, punk rock noise met with indiepop sensibility and classic pop stylings thrown in to boot. Hell, it would be a great crime if Hagopian and Linton never collaborated.
"Deceptively simple" is the best phrase to describe the music of Street Vernacular. While you would be easily tempted to think that this was just another case of a kid with a computer making electronic music in their bedroom, you'd be wrong. Terribly wrong. Hagopian assures us that no computers were used in the making of this record, and if you can't tell that she's telling the truth, then you're either jaded or...well...stupid. That's not a nice word, and we apologize for using such an insulting word, but it's true. Of course, when the musician in question is a music teacher, why would you think that she'd be incapable of making such a wonderful record on her own?
Hagopian was wise to keep Street Vernacular short. It clocks in at less than thirty minutes; normally, that's a pathetic amount of time for a 'full-length' album, but she obviously knows that brevity is the soul of wit. Plus, she perhaps realized that her songs--which do go all over the place, yet stick to a basic formula--are best enjoyed in small samples. Electronic musicians often don't realize that it's better to say something in a short amount of time than to utilize every ounce of time you've got, especially if your style is very basic and not terribly complicated. It's better to produce an album that's excellent yet too short than to produce an album that's tedious after twenty minutes but still a half-hour away from finishing. Hagopian obviously understands that it's best to leave them wanting more, and Street Vernacular is a musical peanut-butter cracker on an empty stomach.
Kicking off Street Vernacular is "Slumber Party," with a piano riff that's very much a mid-60s creation. Of course, she modernizes everything with an electro-beat that is quite similar to her self-referenced influence Solex. Hagopian then turns the beat around with "Hey! Hey! Alright!," a song that Le Tigre could take a few lessons from. The chug-chug beat is complemented with a riff that borrows heavily from..."Freeze Frame?" Yes, that's it! My favorite mixing of styles has to be "Brave New World," where she deftly makes a medley of Mozart and Missing Persons!
See, that's the magic of Cannonball Jane's debut. You can listen to it, and you'll find something new each time, and you'll love it even more. I've listened to Street Vernacular almost every day for the past month. It's that wonderful; it's totally fun, and it's quite smart, too. I mean, what can you say about an artist who makes a melody of Mozart and Missing Persons ("Brave New World")? She pulls it off with grace, and if there's any artist that makes me excited about their future, it's her. Big things for the schoolteacher who can? I sure hope so! Not only am I excited at the prospect of her next record, I'm secretly wondering what kind of influence she has on her students. If Street Vernacular is any indication, then the future of music is secure and safe...
- September 6, 2003