Jameszoo: Fool

Jameszoo's debut album not only is the best jazz album since Flying Lotus' You’re Dead!, but it's also one of the best albums this year, period



Label: Brainfeeder
US Release Date: 2016-05-13
UK Release Date: Import

Brainfeeder Records has always been on the cutting edge of experimental, post-modern jazz. Flying Lotus’ Cosmogramma is a modern classic, Thundercat’s The Golden Age of Apocalypse has some of the best bass playing of this decade, and Kamasi Washington’s The Epic is a three-hour smorgasbord of juicy jazz fusion tracks that everyone should sink their teeth into. Because of these aforementioned albums and the great features that these musicians have on other artists’ work, it’s tough getting onto the label in the first place, let alone releasing an album that can stand alongside this star-studded collection of records. Yet somehow, Fool, the debut album of new Brainfeeder member Jameszoo, not only is the best jazz album since FlyLo’s 2015 You’re Dead!, but is also one of the best albums this year, period.

“Flake” opens the album up in the best way possible, starting with some nice jazzy keys before transitioning into a vibrant, exotic medley of organic percussive rhythms and untamed shimmering synths leads that blend in ways one couldn’t even imagine. From a musical standpoint, this intro summarizes the wild, off-kilter compositions throughout Fool, as well as establishes the quirky, lovable tone that Jameszoo does an excellent job at maintaining for the next ten songs. “Lush”, the second track, builds upon this soundscape by layering in some lush ambient noises and a harmonious guitar melody into the mix.

While these two songs are great, though, Fool, truly comes into its own on “Soup”, a tune that combines delicate electric guitar notes with primal percussive rhythms. As all of the instrumentation builds, Jameszoo layers in a few synths, making “Soup” feel more like a delicious musical gumbo than its name suggests. The next track, “Flu”, is arguably the best five minutes of the album, with more FlyLo-influenced synths, maniacal drum work, and, in the midst of all this, a short yet satisfying bit of violin and Bossa Nova guitar from Brazilian musician Arthur Verocai. While it only lasts momentarily, the playing it so dazzling and well placed within the instrumentation that it brings the song together, tying up any and all loose ends.

In fact, one of the reasons Fool is near perfect is because of Jameszoo’s instrumental precision and attention to detail, as the songs “Wrong” and “Meat” demonstrate. While the album retains a sense of entropy and compositional disintegration, Jameszoo provides enough musical cues and textured soundscapes to successfully guide the listener through the whirlwind of jazz. “Wrong”, while it is one of the more eerie and ethereal cuts off of the album, still has a sense of progression, and it’s largely due to the in-the-pocket clanking and squeaking effects that rise and fall with the ever-changing drum pattern. The same can be said for “Meat”, a song whose bulk consists of swelling organ and maniacal saxophone; in its few quieter moments, serene chimes come in to fill the empty space and provide a heavenly contrast to the devilish horn and organ playing that carries the song forward.

Whereas the first half of this album feels frantic and jittery, the second takes a slightly more relaxed tone, though Fool’s vibrancy remains as colorful as ever. “The Zoo” stands out in the track list not just for having some wonderful, weaving violin, but for also having vocals by John Coltrane Quarter member Steve Kuhn as well. While his singing on this song tends to follow the rhythm of the music, his lyrics are alluring, combining the post-modernism of Allen Ginsberg and the poetic ambiguity of Bob Dylan. “Crumble”, on the other hand, focuses more on song structure, transitioning beautifully from an otherworldly jazzy synth atmosphere to a frenzied landscape of pummeling drums and rolling bass lines. The following track, “Nail (Skit)”, is the much-needed calm after the storm, while “Toots” fuses the haunting atmosphere of a John Carpenter soundtrack with Jameszoo’s jazz sensibilities and fantastic instrumental layering. The album even finishes as well as it starts with the song “Teeth”, a track that winds down the musical rollercoaster that defines this album.

The only fault to be found with Fool is in its last few seconds, where Jameszoo bursts out in a brilliant saxophone and drum medley that ends as abruptly as it began. It is a display of the disjointedness and spur-of-the-moment playing that runs rampant throughout the album, but he could have extended the performance until the end of the measure. Otherwise, Fool is a near-perfect album, melding Jameszoo’s sonic eccentricities and experimentation with great performances, stellar musicians, and off-the-beaten-path instrumentation. Even though there are eight months left in 2016, it’s impossible to imagine any album having nearly as much personality, experimentation, or superb songs as Fool does, and will certainly be one of the best albums to come down the pipeline this year.







Greta Gerwig's Adaptation of Loneliness in Louisa May Alcott's 'Little Women'

Greta Gerwig's film adaptation of Louisa May Alcott's classic novel Little Women strays from the dominating theme of existential loneliness.


The Band's Discontented Third LP, 1970's 'Stage Fright', Represented a World Braving Calamity

Released 50 years ago this month, the Band's Stage Fright remains a marker of cultural unrest not yet remedied.


Natalie Schlabs Starts Living the Lifetime Dream With "That Early Love" (premiere + interview)

Unleashing the power of love with a new single and music video premiere, Natalie Schlabs is hoping to spread the word while letting her striking voice be heard ahead of Don't Look Too Close, the full-length album she will release in October.


Rufus Wainwright Makes a Welcome Return to Pop with 'Unfollow the Rules'

Rufus Wainwright has done Judy Garland, Shakespeare, and opera, so now it's time for Rufus to rediscover Rufus on Unfollow the Rules.


Jazz's Denny Zeitlin and Trio Get Adventurous on 'Live at Mezzrow'

West Coast pianist Denny Zeitlin creates a classic and adventurous live set with his long-standing trio featuring Buster Williams and Matt Wilson on Live at Mezzrow.


The Inescapable Violence in Netflix's I'm No Longer Here (Ya no estoy aqui)

Fernando Frías de la Parra's I'm No Longer Here (Ya no estoy aqui) is part of a growing body of Latin American social realist films that show how creativity can serve a means of survival in tough circumstances.


Arlo McKinley's Confessional Country/Folk Is Superb on 'Die Midwestern'

Country/folk singer-songwriter Arlo McKinley's debut Die Midwestern marries painful honesty with solid melodies and strong arrangements.


Viserra Combine Guitar Heroics and Female Vocals on 'Siren Star'

If you ever thought 2000s hard rock needed more guitar leads and solos, Viserra have you covered with Siren Star.


Ryan Hamilton & The Harlequin Ghosts Honor Their Favorite Songs With "Oh No" (premiere)

Ryan Hamilton's "Oh No" features guest vocals from Kay Hanley of Letters to Cleo, and appears on Nowhere to Go But Everywhere out 18 September.


Songwriter Shelly Peiken Revisits "Bitch" for '2.0' Album (premiere)

A monster hit for Meredith Brooks in the late 1990s, "Bitch" gets a new lease on life from its co-creator, Shelly Peiken. "It's a bit moodier than the original but it touts the same universal message," she says.


Leila Sunier Delivers Stunning Preface to New EP via "Sober/Without" (premiere)

With influences ranging from Angel Olsen to Joni Mitchell and Perfume Genius, Leila Sunier demonstrates her compositional prowess on the new single, "Sober/Without".


Speed the Plough Members Team with Mayssa Jallad for "Rush Hour" (premiere)

Caught in a pandemic, Speed the Plough's Baumgartners turned to a faraway musical friend for a collaboration on "Rush Hour" that speaks to the strife and circumstance of our time.


Great Peacock Stares Down Mortality With "High Wind" (premiere + interview)

Southern rock's Great Peacock offer up a tune that vocalist Andrew Nelson says encompasses their upcoming LP's themes. "You are going to die one day. You can't stop the negative things life throws at you from happening. But, you can make the most of it."


The 80 Best Albums of 2015

Travel back five years ago when the release calendar was rife with stellar albums. 2015 offered such an embarrassment of musical riches, that we selected 80 albums as best of the year.


Buridan's Ass and the Problem of Free Will in John Sturges' 'The Great Escape'

Escape in John Sturge's The Great Escape is a tactical mission, a way to remain in the war despite having been taken out of it. Free Will is complicated.


The Redemption of Elton John's 'Blue Moves'

Once reviled as bloated and pretentious, Elton John's 1976 album Blue Moves, is one of his masterpieces, argues author Matthew Restall in the latest installment of the 33 1/3 series.


Whitney Take a Master Class on 'Candid'

Although covers albums are usually signs of trouble, Whitney's Candid is a surprisingly inspired release, with a song selection that's eclectic and often obscure.


King Buzzo Continues His Reign with 'Gift of Sacrifice'

King Buzzo's collaboration with Mr. Bungle/Fantômas bassist Trevor Dunn expands the sound of Buzz Osborne's solo oeuvre on Gift of Sacrifice.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.