Mention the name Jem to a child of the 1980s, and visions of the animated rock star and her truly, truly, truly outrageous backing band, the Holograms, are likely to spring to mind. The non-cartoon Jem doesn't possess the former's neon glow -- although the Wales native co-wrote the Madonna single "Nothing Fails" with the queen of outlandish effervescence herself -- but she is steadily carving herself a unique niche within superstar circles.
After stints as a club promoter, DJ agent, and record-label employee, she moved to London and eventually snagged a record deal with the Dave Matthews-affiliated ATO. Finally Woken, her full-length debut for the label, feels like a lost Lilith Fair-era coffeehouse diamond. Jem's smoky, folksy vocals drive an album full of tasty morsels that will tide trip-hop lovers over until the next Beth Orton disc. Highlights include "They," a throaty, wintry carol steeped in hip-hop flava, and "Come on Closer," whose metal riffs alternate with sampled cinematic ephemera.
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