Reviewed by Alex Daniel.
|Rating: 6.0 of 10.|
Ironically, JBM’s debut album, Not Even in July, was released in July, and it bears songs with titles like “July on the Sound” and “Friends for Fireworks.” But this is not music you’d play at a sweltering poolside get-together or a midsummer barbeque. Brooklyn’s Jesse Marchant, whose initials make up the name of the singer/songwriter act, specializes in a particularly brooding brand of slow-burning, meditative folk. These aren’t summer sounds—they’re the very stuff autumn is made of.
In its best moments, this seasonal tone is infused with a warm, wistful nostalgia—like a steaming sip of cider. The first three tracks immediately showcase this potential, fading from the swelling chamber arrangements of “Years” into “Cleo’s Song,” which invokes M. Ward by creating a dreamlike atmosphere between Marchant’s reverb-drenched vocals and his understated fingerpicking.
But the album really hits its stride with “Ambitions and War,” which lines its sprightly acoustic tones with lilting piano lines that flutter like fire-colored leaves in the wind. The sounds here are reminiscent of some of the best ‘70s folk-pop, from Jim Croce to Gordon Lightfoot.
After the third track, though, Marchant languishes in dark, stagnant spaces. This works on some songs, like the aforementioned “Friends for Fireworks,” which creates a depthless void between its downtempo keys and morose melodies. But too many others drag well past their welcome. In fact, there’s only one song out of the last seven that is less than five minutes long, and most approach or pass the six-minute mark. By the time you reach album closer “Swallowing Daggers,” there have already been so many painfully drawn-out, resolved ballads that it’s a wonder the album is only just ending.
Nonetheless, Not Even in July will be a record worth returning to in the coming months as the days get shorter and the breeze gets cooler.