written by Chris Familton

Jeremy Jay is a Californian who plays music more suited to the East Coast or the UK. He has an undeniable knack for creating hummable melodies and a cool way with minimal instrumentation that has enough velocity to keep your head nodding along. His latest release, Splash, is a lighter affair than previous albums and surfs an effortless wave between Television, Interpol, Pavement and Modest Mouse.

Jay’s songs revolve around cities, emotions and the struggles of modern life. He cleverly juxtaposes these conundrums with a style that is haunted by past and present musicians. His voice echoes post punk heroes like Ian Curtis with low register intonations and yelps and lost puppy vocals in the vein of Brett Andereson of Suede or a more romantic and approachable Tom Verlaine.

Just Dial My Number is one of the album’s most infectious songs. It has a light bounce that suggests fey pop but out of the delicate melodic frolic comes a bold guitar solo that gives depth to the sugary surface. The great thing about the song is that it doesn’t sound plastic happy, with Jay’s voice it is still tinged by an untouchable sadness and melancholy.

Musically Jay shows great variation within his arsenal of guitars and synths. Why Is This Feeling So Strong? comes straight out of the Modest Mouse book of riffs with that ineffable cool that makes it sound like a throwaway or an afterthought when it is in fact the central spine and hook of the song.

While Splash is a guitar led album synths are everywhere, cowering in the corner or struggling to the surface for air. Jay has chosen late 70s/early 80s sounds that add a teutonic shade to the songs. Think New Order, OMD and the washes of digital chords that formed the backdrop for their songs of alienation.

Also refreshing is the length of Splash. It comes in under 27 minutes, ridiculously short in this day and age of double albums masquerading as single albums. Maybe it is a reaction to the shift towards a focus on songs rather than full albums but the key thing is that Splash still works as a long player. There are 9 songs with a range and mood that make for a complete and rewarding listen. It’s nice to spend such a short period of time with a record and still come away with so much.

Splash should make Jay a pop star in a just world. His songs should be held aloft as examples of how good melodic guitar pop can be when done well. He eschews tricks of the moments like backwoods multi-harmonies and tribal percussion and focuses his musical snapshots on simple hooks, coy allusions and exceptionally cool and catchy songs.

This review first appeared on The Dwarf

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