Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Jeremy Jay - A Place Where We Could Go (***)

If only Jeremy Jay would croon just a little bit more when he decides to devolve into his patented sing-speak, then he could more properly fall into his preferred lineage of Morrissey, Jonathan Richman and Calvin Johnson. His music doesn't necessarily sound much like The Smiths, The Modern Lovers or Beat Happening mind you - although they are all clearly influences - it's too lounge-y and kept under glass for that, but on his debut album, A Place Where We Could Go, Jay weaves a nice little through-line to all those artists, adopting a distinctly French perspective (which he speaks fluidly) for his chilly late night tales of love, travel and comfort. The comparisons to Calvin Johnson run a little deeper than most others however, as Jay is signed to the legendary pop imprint K Records, which Johnson has ran for over two decades now. Overs the years, the label has been a haven for all things twee and lo-fi, and Jeremy Jay is just about the perfect artist to carry the label's torch well into the 21st century.

At this stage though, he's still a little underdeveloped. He doesn't have the biting wit of Morrissey at his disposal, nor quite the self-deprecating humor of Jens Lekman, who's probably Jay's closest conceptual cousin. Right now, he is more like Jonathan Richman in chrysalis, making casual observations about day-to-day life, occasionally stumbling upon a moving sentiment or catchy melody. However, the nice thing about A Place Where We Could Go as a stand alone entity is it's uniformity, with Jay's dedication to a single aesthetic stitching these 11 songs together, even if every last one of them aren't necessarily all that essential. Whereas Jay's earlier material leaned a little too heavily on the synth to pick up some melodic slack (check last year's promising Airwalker EP), A Place Where We Could Go finds Jay limiting himself to just guitar, piano and drums. The record features some loose but stately arrangements, with some occasionally aggresive guitar parts, yet with a little more finesse, Jay could have something really special on his hands.

The best of these songs can stand-up well enough on their own however. "Heavenly Creatures", "Beautiful Rebel" and "Oh, Bright Young Things" all paint the portrait of a young singer well beyond his years (Jay doesn't look too far out of his teens), his rich baritone providing surprising gravitas to a handful of these precious little songs, which seemingly mine 50s lounge singers and French New Wave cinema as much 80s indie-pop. He surely has his influences in the right place, and the appropriate friends to lend credence to his work, and the overriding feeling that his best work is yet to come should ensure a cult of listeners patiently waiting for new material.

Highlights: "Heavenly Creatures", "Beautiful Rebel" and "Oh, Bright Young Things"

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