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Album Review: The Jazz June – after the earthquake

Artist: The Jazz June
Album: after the earthquake
Tracks: 10
Release Date: November 11th 2014
Label: Topshelf Records

Having formed in 1996 in Pennsylvania, The Jazz June aren’t exactly a new band, although given their hiatus since 2002, they may as well be. They were once playing with bands such Jimmy Eat World and seemingly made quite the impact on both emo and indie crowds before disappearing. Now the band are back with their new album and here’s our review of it.

Sounding as youthful as ever, The Jazz June’s new album, after the earthquake, opens with the energetic track over underground. Bringing vocalist Andrew Low’s frustrated sentiments into the song to a reoccurring riff and consistent drum beat couldn’t sound more indie, but it’s that frustration that highlights The Jazz June’s strength – honesty.

Lyrics such as “Things went wrong, we went south, we went over underground…” could be talking about a lot of things, but whatever the case it’s clear that with a song like over underground, this album is filled with emotional honesty. This is made all the better by the fact that this content has been the product of a 12 year hiatus for The Jazz June, giving the feeling that after the earthquake is filled with 12 years of life experience to express on record.

Following over underground is the title track of the album – after the earthquake. It’s not too often that the title track of any album or EP the best of the release, but on this album, after the earthquake is my personal favourite. The lazy and sustained chords opening the song provide a solid backdrop for the effortlessly delivered introduction of Low’s casually catchy vocals, but it’s only part of the track’s attraction. The chorus takes the slow and moody verses and discards them, as the track bursts into a more upbeat and positive melody, both vocally and instrumentally. This track feels so well put together and genuine. Lyrics in the chorus such as “and when the tide breaks, and the earth shakes, we’ll be hiding until after the earthquake…” sound comforting and it feels as though The Jazz June have had a lot of time to think things over and get some perspective about tough times and moving forwards, something which I feel a lot of listeners will respect.

After such a brilliant track though, I can’t help but be a little disappointed with the next title, with honors. It’s not that with honors is necessarily a bad track, but to me it feels like the decent into some more generic song-writing and composition, which feels a little lacking. It’s heavily focused around being sick, bored, angry and tired, and yeah, it’s a little cliché but I’m sure many will enjoy that, even if it’s over some relatively uninteresting guitar chords. It will however please some people that this song is generally a lot more emo-sounding, so it’s certainly got that appeal for particular listeners.

Personally I unfortunately feel as though even the next track, it came back, also seems a lot less eventful than it could or should be. It’s just filled with that typical generic-indie kind of sound, which a bit forgettable. It’s a blend of bland guitar parts hazed with light distortion and an extremely rigid song structure, which makes it feel too stiff and forced. That said, I feel a little annoyed at the band because I’ve found myself loving the chorus yet again, despite the rest of song feeling very underwhelming. It’s these catchy choruses that make me feel as if the band could really benefit from offering a little more elsewhere in their tracks instrumentally. It would be a welcome sound to hear some more drum-focused parts in songs or some more elaborate guitar solos or a wide variety of other musical ways of making compositions more versatile and distinct.

There are still some great moments throughout the rest of the tracklist though. edge of space has some inspiring lyrical imagery, whilst ain’t it strange has a more erratic guitar role, making the track feel more energetic, which would be great to see live. nothing to see here also feels like it utilises a more active guitar part throughout it, which actually adds more definition and character to the track, something which isn’t always present within every entry on this album. Then you have a song like short changed, which is warm-sounding and has some chord progressions which actually stand out, as well as some backing vocals being used (which should definitely have been used more throughout the rest of the album), teasing listeners with snippets of what could be more regularly.

Having listened to after the earthquake through many times now, I think it’s fair to say that this album definitely has some great moments. There are certain songs which really do stand out amongst the rest, and a lot of songs that don’t overly stand out generally still have some brilliant parts. The problem with this kind of indie music is that a large proportion of the composition is based around creating a very full and whole sound. These types of sounds often end up consisting of lots of chords and relatively small amounts of experimentation aside from that, which can be a bit tedious-sounding to someone who likes a little more diversity throughout an entire album. That said, die-hard indie fans will probably find that completely irrelevant, as in many ways, this album tries to surpass instrumental experimentation in favour of catchy choruses and emotional expression – and often does it pretty well. The Jazz June may sound youthful as ever, but it feels as though 12 years of growing up has really benefited their ability to make emotive music. It will be exciting to hear how the band progress even further musically and I hope they don’t stop again before they define their sounds even further.

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