First, get your head around the fact that Jeff Hanson sounds like a girl. Good. Now, move on to his pristine songwriting, his strolling—but never hobbling —emotional guitar and piano-bas

First, get your head around the fact that Jeff Hanson sounds like a girl. Good. Now, move on to his pristine songwriting, his strolling—but never hobbling —emotional guitar and piano-based melodies. His self-titled new album and its predecessor, "Son," share many qualities of the late Elliott Smith, with even the occasional waltz Mr. Misery himself was prone to pen. With his sensitive falsetto, Hanson explores the popular topic of "you" in these folk-rock tracks, his unnamed and ever-ambiguous muse causing him to make this effort a tad sadder than his previous solo release. Hanson's reedy voice pairs gorgeously with his simple, poignant arrangements and makes even the most morose moments affecting.—KH