Good ideas are hard to come by. They come and go, come inspired, leave blank, and altogether, avoid you when you need them most. Just ask any serious artist, writer, or musician, because at some stage it is inevitable that their proverbial well would soak up its last drop of good intention. For Arizona pop/rockers Jimmy Eat World, this impasse came in 2004 when try tried to follow a hugely successful pop-soaked album with a collection of songs fighting to stay commercially viable while trying to gleam with the kind of depth the band had reached with both Static Prevails and Clarity. In truth, Futures did boast moments of quality- songs like “Work” best showed the band tight roping the fine line between radio friendly arrangements and the introspection and intimacy of their pre-Bleed American material. Even Bleed American, bursting from its seems with hit after hit, had its fair share of deeply emotive songs (see “Hear You Me” and “My Sundown”), and Jimmy Eat World are certainly no strangers to the concept of writing music accessible to both general audiences and those who actively seek a more personal connection to the artists they listen to. They write pop music that certainly sounds like pop music, but pop that resonates with far greater depth than their counterparts.
It is this idea, the taking of plucky melodies and easy to emulate song arrangements, and combining them with more abstract lyrical and narrative meditation, that separates Jimmy Eat World from your average pop/rock band. And after struggling to recapture the form of their massive 2001 effort, Jim Adkins and cohorts have begun the process of rejuvenation with Chase This Light; an earnestly capable album that is not only easy on the ears, but written smart enough to appease older Jimmy Eat World fans raised on the band’s pre radio chart days. Opening number “Big Casino” is simply screaming to be heard; with an anthemic Adkins metaphorical wailing over razor sharp riffs catchphrases of loneliness and acceptance; “I’ll accept with poise, with grace / When they draw my name from the lottery / And they’ll say all the salt in the world couldn’t melt that ice.” The band then reach dizzying heights with a trio of tunes culled together to end an album of albums- the title track, evoking the graceful melancholy of previous tunes “Work” and to a degree, “For Me This is Heaven,” while the closing “Dizzy” is similar to “My Sundown” in its patient build up and gentle conclusion. With “Firefight” however, the band excels to a new musical apex; perfectly constructing the melting point between lighter fare and the explosive nature of punk/post-hardcore guitar work. It’s scintillating to say the least.
Moreover, Chase This Light’s strongest quality is perhaps its consistent tone- a greater continuity over the album’s songs from beginning to end. While Futures boasted some high points, it was marred by weaker songs that felt out of place and written out of time to the rest. It however doesn’t hide some of Chase This Light’s more subdued moments, where the band appear to dally too long in a given musical space. The acoustic driven “Carry You,” while a capable down-tempo tune, lacks the kind of momentum built over the preceding songs. Similarly, “Electable (Give It Up)” sounds a little hollow; packed with a chorus of empty “woah woahs” while the following “Gotta Be Somebody’s Blues,” moody and all, comes across as a little too sullen, muting Adkins and the rest of the band.
The lull aside, Chase This Light exhibits the kind of intelligent songwriting music fans (especially fans of Jimmy Eat World) should demand on a consistent basis. The majority of it is concise in its craft, and near perfect in its execution. Jimmy Eat World may have some way to go to once again be beamed all over the airwaves with such demand, but as Chase This Light proves, rediscovering that inspiration, no matter how far from completion they may be, goes a long way.
(Tiny Evil Records)
Hatchie – Keepsake
Keepsake, the debut album by Brisbane dream pop artist Hatchie is musical luminescence that can only be described as music written for the stars
Brisbane indie-pop artist Hatchie (known to her friends and family as Harriette Pilbeam) is in the envious position of being a pop artist unspoiled by the many trappings of what it is to be a modern pop artist. Unlike some of her contemporaries who craft music by committee or with Sheeran-like self-importance, Hatchie is as of now, unsullied by the pressures of the cookie-cutter pop machine. Hatchie’s debut full length is a showcase for a talent who is supremely confident and composed in her abilities, and Keepsake is musical luminescence that can only be described as music written for the stars. The album is also a wonderful throwback to pop’s dreamy 60s influences that shuffle in and out of this delirium while working alongside distinctly more current musical touches.
There is the lush dream pop sounds of “Without a Blush”, taking cues from the best of what Stars and Goldfrapp conjure but heaping a tonne of Pilbeam’s charisma on it. Like her vocals, “Without a Blush” has this elegance that has the ability to elevate songs from being beautiful to grand. It is the kind of vocal elegance that really shines through on songs like the skittering, beat-driven “Obsessed” and the alternative, guitar-fuelled (yay!) “When I Get Out”. Indie/electronic closer “Keep” is a wonderful end to proceedings.
However, the great strength of Keepsake is not just its composure in how all the songs have been put together. It is also this genuine, natural-sounding quality that permeates the album- nothing overly written, overly produced or put together by research groups or music analysts. It just sounds like talent. We can argue that much of pop music is constructed to appease the moment- designed to grab as much attention as possible in an A.D.D. world. And sure, that can be said about almost any kind of music, but the resulting aural tone of Keepsake is anything but transient or transparent.
The best way to combat tepid chart-topping music is to write better pop songs. Songs like “Her Own Heart” and the disco-toned “Stay” are examples of pop music that come across as timeless. We are moved by the songs found on Keepsake when we listen to them today. And I suspect that in 10 years time, or in 20, we will most likely feel the same. It is rare to find the sort of ageless beauty you find on Keepsake.