In There’s No Home, the follow-up to her 2005 debut, Blank Unstaring Heirs of Doom, Houston native Jana Hunter keeps her songs pithy, with only one of the fifteen tracks here lasting longer than four minutes. Hunter lets the components of her music speak — an implacable voice, smooth instrumentation that never becomes too self-indulgent, an ability to spark interest before a song gets dull for themselves. The result is a collection that glides alongside with her talent rather than stalling on tedious instrumental quirks or laborious vocal displays, which even celebrated neo-folk figures like Sufjan Stevens and Joanna Newsom are guilty of.
“Babies” encapsulates Hunter’s grainy voice and eclectic songwriting played over a charming rhythm as she jumps from high-pitch to throat-clearing tones in lines like “Gypsies have babies just the same.” Of the songs where she is the lone voice, “Babies” is the highlight. A lively beat sets the tone on “Bird” and “Oracle” for similarly impressive tracks. In “Bird,” a gathering of background vocals complements Hunter’s mystique, creating a haunting duel between the two. “Regardless” catches her brother John echoing her words to pleasing effect. (He also sings the lead on numerous songs, including opener “Palms.”)
“There’s No Home” offers a rewarding finish as a slow syncopation turns to an eerie final verse featuring Jana and John and Matthew Brownlie. It can be difficult to find nuance in such brief songs, but the lack of filler is an accomplishment, and closer “There’s No Home” — the aforementioned four-minute track — displays Hunter’s ability to write and compose. Perhaps her next step is to expand upon the talent laden throughout this impressive second effort.