Music

Jeremy Jay: A Place Where We Could Go

Lo-fi, L.A. songwriter follows up a string of strong 45s with an album of mostly uninspired, throwback '50s pop.


Jeremy Jay

A Place Where We Could Go

Label: K
US Release Date: 2008-05-20
UK Release Date: 2008-05-26
Amazon
iTunes

Judging by the music that they've put out over the course of the last 26 years, the folks at K Records have never put much stock in the concept of adulthood. From the Beat Happening to Tiger Trap, K artists have always shunned maturity and its trappings, instead embracing youthful naiveté, unabashed amateurism and a do-it-yourself ethos. Of course, these were radical ideas at the time of K's founding -- both the music and the label itself were designed to serve as a reaction to the excesses of 1980s popular culture.

Nowadays, you might still mistake Olympia for Never-Never-Land based on its musical output -- most K artists still project that trademark wide-eyed innocence -- but that's not to say that the imprint hasn't evolved. While the label's roster hasn't quite "grown up" per se, a number of K artists have branched out thematically, tackling weightier topics without undermining the label's core aesthetic. Phil Elverum, for one, has spent the better part of his career pondering his place in the universe while artists like the Blow and Mirah have tackled gender politics and sexuality from a feminist perspective.

Taken in this context, K's latest signing, Los Angeles singer-songwriter Jeremy Jay, seems a little behind the times. Admittedly, this is at least partially by design: Jay obviously worships at the altar of '50s pop and probably fancies himself a little old-fashioned (just look at that boyish bob cut and wool blazer he's wearing on the album cover). Unfortunately, Jay is also backwards in a less flattering way: while his take on classic pop of decades past is not without its charm, his childish lyrics and lo-fi production sound unmistakably dated when compared to recent albums from contemporary K artists.

"Nite nite," Jay whispers over the overpowering sound of tape hiss on "Nite Nite", the album's six-second-long opening track. This, of course, leads into "Heavenly Creatures", the album's proper first track, wherein Jay earnestly strums a steel string while cooing lines like "And Remember I love you / Nite, nite goodnight / I love you / So." It's all a bit much to take and Calvin Johnson's customary, echo-laden production certainly doesn't help matters. The end result sounds something like a caricature of the Olympia sound.

Luckily, on "Beautiful Rebel", Jay fares a bit better, channeling Hunky Dory-era Bowie for an upbeat, proto-punk romp. Yes, that earnestly-strummed six-string is still present, though this time around it's buried under a fuzzed-out electric and the steady stomp of Stooges-esque drums. "Oh beautiful rebel / Out of the woodwork you came / Hardly human / Your wilderness so fierce," Jay speak-sings, sounding like Jonathan Richman feigning toughness.

"The Living Dolls", meanwhile, is a throwback to pre-Chuck Berry rock, a track that easily could have chaperoned many a school dance half a century ago, were it not for the bizarre lyrics about living dolls: "Who know of a special place / In the nursery at night / For they remember / They are still children inside." On the other end of the lyrical spectrum is "Till We Meet Again", which could have been an early Belle & Sebastian cut, with its bouncy upstrums and simple chord progression. However, Jay's fey lyrics on the track would probably embarrass even Stuart Murdoch: "Oh loving, till we meet again / I'll be in love / Till we meet again".

The title track "A Place Where We Could Go" is perhaps the most lyrically evocative piece to be found on the LP. A teenage escape fantasy, it finds the protagonist "Waiting / On the lamppost like we planned" for a girl to sneak out of her bedroom in a pink dress and black shoes. The exciting conclusion? "And we drive on the night / Smiling on so sweetly".

It's quite clear that Jeremy Jay longs for simpler times and it's not hard to understand why: the 6'3", boyish blonde certainly could have been a teen idol, had he only been born a few decades earlier. The problem is that, in 2008, Jay has arrived a bit late to the '50s pop throwback party. Unlike the singles that preceded it (most notably, the delirious, lo-fi groove of "Airwalker") A Place Where We Could Go is missing the eccentric flourishes that made Jeremy Jay an artist to watch in the L.A. scene and as a result, sounds more revivalist than revisionist. Sure, Buddy Holly would still turn heads if he walked into a bar and started playing "Peggy Sue" tomorrow. But he'd also probably seem more like a naïve curiosity than a serious artist. That's because times have changed since 1957. Jeremy Jay would do well to take notice.

4

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Keep reading... Show less

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less
3

A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

Keep reading... Show less
9

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image