Circa 2005’s “Batten the Hatches,” Jenny Owen Youngs was positioned as a coy beauty dressed like an Ivy League professor (neckties, Oxford shirts, blazers and V-neck sweaters), like some complicated update of Britney’s “Baby One More Time” schoolgirl fantasy. The message she projected was clear: This was a smart, sophisticated, playful singer for smart, sophisticated, playful listeners.
That kind of package can distract from actually assessing the music — oh hai, Lana Del Rey! — but image aside, Youngs has folk-pop chops.
She toured with Aimee Mann and Regina Spektor, both fine reference points for music that’s weighty and whimsical at once. Her confidence shrouds a core similarity to Nick Drake’s intimate whisper-folk. So did the increased vigor of 2009’s “Transmitter Failure,” which took all those elements and made them rock.
Youngs is due for a new album, so perhaps fresh material will be on display Wednesday at The Basement. New Empire opens.