JENNIFER O’CONNOR: Here With Me [Matador]

Things have never been better for Jennifer O’Connor—career-wise, at least—but you wouldn’t know it by listening to her ruminative fourth record. Nothing if not brutally honest, the Brooklyn singer/songwriter tips her hand early on Here With Me. “I’m gonna go back where I started/It’s gonna be so brokenhearted,” she bellows on “Daylight Out,” the lustiest of several tracks that try to break up the pervasive heartache. Despite finishing in a dead heat (Here With Me contains six up-tempo and six down-tempo songs), the sad, slow numbers act like an anchor. (More offerings such as opening salvo “The Church And The River,” a marshaled, genuinely eye-welling march, would’ve helped.) The mid-album burst of energy—highlighted by the insistently strummed, immaculately voiced “Highway Miles”—feels like a mirage by the petering finale, where one acoustic weeper bleeds into the next. O’Connor’s clarion vocals still impart a kind of damaged authenticity, but instead of the bruised tones of 2006’s terrific Over The Mountain, Across The Valley And Back To The Stars, too much of Here With Me just sounds beaten down. []

—Noah Bonaparte Pais