From behind the camera to composing the score for a short film to starting a musical project in 2012 called OH ODESSA, Jeni Magana is doing it all within Brooklyn’s thriving art community. To achieve what she has requires a tremendous amount of versatility and dexterity, where each of her senses must be finely honed. Textures must flow seamlessly and capture the eye and ear. Sounds and images must elicit emotional responses and memories, whether it is the touch of a child’s hand, the taste of a fine wine, or the smell of a lover.
For the past four years, Jeni has primarily focused on the visual arts. However, after composing the score for the short film Beyond the Shadows, the alumnus of the prestigious Berklee College of Music is rebooting her musical career. Simply referred as Magana, this new project has her taking her multiple talents around and coalescing them around space, time, and sound. The by-product of this rekindled desire is Golden Tongue, Magana’s debut EP.
The four songs on the record are beautifully devastating, akin to the mournful but moving indie-rock balladry of Sharon Van Etten and Emma Ruth Rundle. The EP’s second song, “Inches Apart”, would fit perfectly alongside Rundle’s “Real Big Sky” as one of the year’s most stark yet memorable numbers. The solitary sound of electric guitar creates the crippling mood as Magana’s vulnerable vocals call out to be found. On the stripped down “The World Doesn’t Know”, Magana takes us inside the mind of a suffering person who cannot be heard nor understood. The song is a brilliant display of storytelling, as we feel like we are the protagonist and hearing, seeing, and feeling the things in her entrapment.
Where Magana captures multiple scenes akin to photographs is on the title track, “Golden Tongue”. The instrumentation builds dramatically to complement this story of ageing and failing to remember what the past held. Failing to recall what love was and meant. It is only in the pictures where the memories now remain. As Magana brilliantly sings, “If you can’t quite recall, maybe you never knew.”
Where all of Magana’s talents come together is on the record’s opening and lead single, “Get It Right”. The track is quietly menacing, as Magana sings about someone who has betrayed her. The emotion that builds is reminiscent of Sharon Van Etten’s most gripping songs, where you can feel the intensity growing between the two people. Where you can see the other person who has hurt you. That you can taste the disdain, smell the fire that is raging, and hear the pain in her heart. As she sings,
If you could see what is in my mind, you would change before my eyes.
You were red but my gold turned you green, so you stood there lying through your teeth.
Photographer. Composer. Musician. Songwriter. Jeni Magana has almost done it all. With Golden Tongue, we might have to add poet because the balladry is superb. Or maybe we can just keep it simple and call Magana a true talent and an artist who has the potential to breakthrough beyond Brooklyn’s arts scene. Let us hope it won’t take four years before she shares this side of her.
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