Blair Shehan is bound by his talents. He is the memoirist; the able writer who pens our most indelible of emotions, summoning the human commonalities that bide between each and every one of us. He writes of our distances (“Did you celebrate without me? / Did you tell them all about me? / did you sell me out / if you ever had a doubt”) and our insecurities (“I will be anxious arms/ beside myself and there is no one else / won’t you be my answer then”), and he writes of all those moments that leave us speechless and cold. He is the arrant negotiator, calmly blurring the lines between the lush manifestations and the oft sanguine sluicing of pleasant rock formulae – crafting compositions that yield their own significance; a bold statement between perfectly moving and sincere. Shehan is our honesty and the Jealous Sound is the musical vernacular in which these distances are bridged.
Believe what you will, press lines and quips of praise are but words we form in an attempt to grasp emanating sounds. The very words you are reading are but some, an effort to fully comprehend how in years passing, so little have awaken the deepest warmth of sadness and growth. A time in which we often seek clarity and understanding, but receive it far too late. Gone are those opportunities, the fleeting instances we failed to grab and the comfort we missed to embrace. And these words that so solemnly echo, the gentle shoestring tugging of the heart, all but remind us, before it lets us rest our weary heads on its waiting shoulder.
“I force your hand to write / List what you left behind / Did I force your hand to move like mine”, Shehan writes in “The Gift Horse”, his voice is the awkward reassurance, layered above the pristine rock riffs that ache that infectious stillness. An apparent calm that is broken by the upbeat nature of the album’s more effervescent instances; most notably “Naïve”, a bitter tongued diatribe that boasts lyrical poignancy as well as musical grace, and in the ambitious “Anxious Arms” (that was previously seen on their debut EP but receives a conscious reworking) – a grand gesture of searing emotion and well placated instrumental balance; sharing periods of sullenness and rejuvenation.
There is a distinct separation between the Jealous Sound, or more accurately, Shehan himself, and artists who desire the attention of both our ears and hearts. The somnambulistic veil in which he coats each song is an added texture; one we feel more than we hear – interwoven is this luster, into the uncomplicated tangling of instruments and those choice connections made with the seemingly tortured poetic poise. Whether it be the observations of others, “You’re poised and you’re perfect / face of the fallen destroyed / Call out and curse it and everything else you avoid / Your comets burn brighter but you still feel the sting / They lift up their lighters and sing so sweetly” or our own inner struggles, “I’m already gone / Don’t say a word / I can’t hear you / Don’t hold me close / I can’t feel you”, the words that escape are ones we relate to; shaped as if they are those released from our own breath.
It is in that same breath that we feel at ease, the burden that some artists cast upon themselves can be immense; courted by lavish experimental settings and desires to outdo, their most human of features become indistinguishable. And it is this very human essence that shines throughout Kill Them With Kindness; seemingly unbothered by delusions and loftiness, it shimmers undaunted, like the softness of falling snow, the affection of the fireplace and the kindness of the reaching hand. This gleam captured in true form during “Guard it Closely”; an earnest winter escapade buoyed by the slow magnetic opening, champagne riffs and lounging bassline, its simple candor; lit once again in the much grandeur, gentler “Recovery Room” – best left at beautiful.
For those times we are left in shadows, searching for a sound or voice of reason, we turn to our most personal of places. We look for those open arms where we can rest our weary core, where we can sit and hear and wait for the profound, where we can scream in relief “It feels so good to feel”. And like the moments spent in Shehan’s audience, the understanding is clear, and the only constraints lie in whether or not we’ve found them in time.
(Better Looking Records)