Jeff Hanson sounds girlish

Let’s just get this out of the way right now: Jeff Hanson sounds exactly like a girl. Okay, it’s out there. It’s really a shame that every bit of press or passing comment about this talented and endearing St. Paul, Minn.-based singer-songwriter has to be prefaced with some caveat about his feminine-sounding pipes, but that is the culture we live in. There is so much more to this, his second CD, but it’s interesting to note the role his voice plays in the listening experience. It’s not just that he sings high up the scale or in a cutesy way. His natural singing voice just possesses the breathy smoothness and delicacy we associate with some songstress as opposed to a dude.

This self-titled album is ambitious without being overblown; it’s eminently organic without the stifling trappings associated with “folk” or “singer/songwriter” genre labels. The album starts with some extremely sparse melodic exploration by Hanson’s weightlessly beautiful falsetto and spare acoustic guitar accompaniment. Hanson proves he has an ear for hauntingly catchy melody right off the bat.

After four minutes of this unadorned stage-stealing performance, the album gets into the swing of things with strings and drums kicking in, and Hanson doubling up his vocal tracks. This trick takes his peculiar singing voice from oddly pleasant to lush pop perfection.

While the lyrics are nicely vague, the melodies and arrangements speak volumes. “Jeff Hanson” delivers a unique vision of intelligent, elegant rock music fully realized in the studio, and best suited for nighttime headphone listening.