“Tell me, why are all of my favourite songs so sad?,” Jess Hill asks on the deeply ruminative “I Was Wrong”. “Tell me, why do they make me feel good instead of bad?” Actually, the Vancouver singer could be in a great position to answer those questions, judging from her superb five-tune EP, Pieces, which hurts so good, I can’t stop playing it.
She produced the 20-minute set of dreamy originals (and interim followup to her long-playing Orchard) with like-named Jesse Gander, who gooses things along her acoustic guitar-based tunes with a whack of other sparely applied instruments. Pedal-steel phenom Tim Tweedale brings his waterfall twang to the relatively uptempo “It Don’t Matter”, which also finds Scott Bell joining her on vocals. But nothing interferes with Hill’s effortless dominance of the songs, not the intimacy of a clear, alto voice that suggests the folky, lost-in-sound vibe of Neko Case, Margo Timmins, or early Cat Power, while also recalling more confessional English voices, like those of Sandy Denny and Linda Thompson.
Comparisons don’t matter much, though, since Hill’s approach is so confidently original. Her words are consistently arresting, and the intensity of her delivery keeps even the slowest numbers from growing sleepy. Or even all that sad.