Jake George – Heart
Jake George – Heart – EP Review
Post-Funk. Is that a thing? If it’s not, it should be…I mean, that’s the music Jake George is making, isn’t it? With its haunting Post-Punk aura & sound you’ll find in the melodies & vocals and the Funk-tastic way the bass continually moves & grooves through a track like “Soft Soul” as the new Heart EP begins – I felt like there was already plenty of hybrid style at work pulling me in quickly with this first impression. Equally rad really, are the guitars on this cut and where they’re placed in the lefts & rights as you listen, sparkling around & surrounding you as “Soft Soul” works in a whole dimension of sound and stunning instrumentation to start this experience up on a seriously enticing note. As many times as I ended up spinning this record over the past week or so, “Soft Soul” continued to remain one of the EP’s strongest tunes…Jake puts his best forward here with great songwriting, remarkable execution, and a genuinely smart song to put up front in the lineup as the gateway into the rest. Right from the drop the excitement begins through the music, you add in a high-dose of slick coolness in the vocals that Jake brings to the microphone on this first tune, the sleek flow of the design of the sound bouncing around all over the place through your speakers, and authentically engaging songwriting…and voila, you’ve got the recipe for what George creates on “Soft Soul.” Vocally, it’s one of my favorite performances from Jake on this EP – I dig how he sings this tune, and kudos to him for surrendering that awesomeness in favor of a nearly full-minute’s worth of instrumental ride to the end of this opening cut. Smart move considering the music is as inviting and spectacular as it is – it gets a deserved moment in the spotlight.
The album’s title-track continues to reveal the impressive depths of the musicianship you’ll find running throughout this record from George – this dude can seriously jam! Clever use of a stop/start-style beat to fuel the energy as Jake rolls through the verses, and the guitars come in to freakin’ light-up the chorus perfectly too…awesome drum sounds & innovative playing, incredible guitar tones that add major appeal to this entire tune…bass that holds the fort down no problemo – when you’re examining this song from an execution stand-point, it’s essentially flawless. That’s the good news. The maybe not as great news, is that “Heart” has a much harder time standing out as perhaps it should, surrounded by two of the best tunes on this EP on either side of it. Moments like how rad the drums sound in the breakdown, or the sheer space of the sound you’ll find in that spot around the 2:30-ish mark, definitely give this cut a bit of an edge for those out there that dig on their instrumentation & musicianship…but as for the main hooks you’ll find on “Heart” outside of that, I’ll admit, they didn’t quite make the impact that a “Soft Soul” or “I Need Time” to follow did. Decent tune for sure…ultimately, I have no major qualms with how it’s been played or performed…I mean…you really can’t blame me at all here – it’s Jake’s fault if he’s written songs that stand out more isn’t it? Or at the very least, it’s natural to have our favorites…that’s the beauty of how people listen to music, we all hear things differently; for me, the weighted-emotions and stunning sound throughout “I Need Time” was like an instant hit of what I wanted to hear from Jake George’s music, and “Soft Soul” beforehand, well…you read my thoughts on that already. The real bottom line is, he’s consistent in the fact that each and every song on this record has multiple ways for listeners to get into it potentially, and always a redeeming aspect that makes the journey worthwhile. To be fair, most likely found in the musicianship for the most part…even if the hooks of a song like “Heart” might not sink in as hard as others, the instrumentation never quits, ever.
Don’t get me wrong, I like what I’ve heard so far – but the clincher for me was “I Need Time” – that’s where I started to realize just how into this record I had become. In a wonderful blend of ways, this track is pretty much an entirely rad hybrid of so much of what I love about 90’s Alternative still to this day. It’s like Jake somehow tapped into ALL of the amazing notes and tones I love about the bass & guitars on a record like One Hot Minute by the Red Hot Chili Peppers here on “I Need Time” – and while I think there are some songs that will make better use of the sound of George’s voice than others on this record, for me, this is a serious highlight. Each time it came on…no kidding…I’d sit here and absolutely be LOVING the guitars…then I’d notice how much the bass was crushin’ it too…or how the drums weren’t just keeping the beat, but finding innovative ways to chime into the energy of this structure as well through smart fills & etc. And then like, by the time my brain registers all these things I love about what’s happening in the music, it coordinates with right around when Jake starts sliding into some of my most favorite vocal moments from him anywhere on this album…to me, this song is a complete winner. Compelling, engaging, interesting – you name it, “I Need Time” delivers in-full for ya on all these fronts & more. This track, perhaps more than any other on the EP, is where I found the most balance between strengths…the music is brilliantly busy & understated at the same time, the vocals are extremely expressive, lyrically, it’s got plenty to say as well, doled out in simple-but-effective & expressive vocals.
There is a distinctly lo-fi vibe that runs through these songs…there’s part of me that wonders whether or not a track like “Falling Down” has as much sparkle & shine as it could potentially have, despite the fact that I like the song plenty enough as it stands already. What I like is that a track like this bridges the worlds of sounds between bands with the depth of hooks in something like TV On The Radio and the shinier, flashier, Pop-inclined hooks of a band like The Temper Trap, and nestles itself comfortably right in between’em somewhere. I think there’s a ton of stunning guitar-work all throughout this record that’s very reminiscent of the genius you’ll find in music made by…say a band like Minus The Bear for example, where the very sound, texture, tone, and often echoes play a massive role in every tune they ever created. Point is, it’s ear-catching & shiny stuff, but the ideas also had genuine depth – and I think you’ll find you get a similar combination & balance of strengths from Jake in that respect. I also think that this is one of the hardest spots in the lineup to fill, coming after what could be viewed as the record’s most ultimate highlight & slow-burning sound…the switch in direction & upbeat energy pays off for Jake – “Falling Down” is another track that solidly holds its own from the Heart EP. I’d go as far as to say, I’d probably be willing to bet that the majority of listeners out there might notice this track the most on those first spins through the record, “Falling Down” has a ton of hooks your ears will willingly absorb.
“HIGH+LOW” is another cut where I felt like the music really stood out for all the right reasons. From the bass to the guitars & drums…Jake’s nailing this one tightly with compelling sound, smart transitions, and bold, colorful tones that strengthen the atmosphere with the thickness & richness they provide. Now here’s the thing…no one out there is gonna go and tell the dudes that sing for bands like The National or The Editors to find that spark and all of a sudden start screaming their faces off, or really even raising the energy & pulse of what they do on a microphone beyond anything that’s in their wheelhouse…which is both a sign of limitations, but still also a choice. If singers like this deviate from their path, we hear it for sure – and of course it puts them on shakier ground outside of their comfort zone…but that’s just the thing – what’s inside of their comfort zone works perfectly for them. Might take an adjustment or some time for listeners to catch onto the whole signature style of it all, but if it works, it works…and there’s almost no sense in deviating too much from what’s tried, tested, & true. I bring all this up because I feel like, when I’m listening to “HIGH+LOW” – I want a little bit more spark in the fire of the vocals to match the energy of the music surrounding Jake…but I can ‘want’ for something all I feel like…it doesn’t change the fact that, it’s just not the kind of singer George is. He’s got his own vibe and he sticks to it; arguably, it’s still more expressive or at least on par with the comparisons I’ve made – and I should point out that The National & The Editors are bands I listen to regularly to this day. Do I want those singers to pick up their energy to suit their songs more at times too? You bet. I swear I’m being fair across the board here – and I’m also realistic about what I might ‘want’ anyhow – who honestly cares? Do what YOU do…that’s what makes any artist/band great, regardless of what any critic or reviewer will try to tell ya, or how any suit’n’tie tries to steer your music when it comes contract time. All this being said, on a structural-level, compostion & idea-wise, even the flow of the vocals as well, I’d never argue against “HIGH+LOW” being a well-written tune – it IS…part of me suspects that it’s the use of the words “pick it up” that occur in the chorus…each time I hear them, it’s like a verbal cue that reminds me of the one thing I’m looking for in this song that I felt was missing. You can hear Jake does “pick it up” a little bit…but as to whether it’s completely enough for listeners out there, I’m not so sure.
Sometimes a moment can really define our attitude towards an entire song…we don’t always have to love every single part we hear in order to love something when it comes to music believe it or not. I’m not necessarily in-love with the verses of the final track “On This Night,” which is kind of odd, because it actually reminds me quite a bit of the vibes on Around The Sun by R.E.M. – but if you were to ask me, it’s the shift into the chorus here that could be the most memorable highlight & hook to be discovered on this whole EP. Don’t get me wrong…things fit together really well here overall, there’s just an undeniable sonic brilliance in that main transition into the chorus that I feel like every ear would hear. If we’re taking this cut piece-by-piece, I’m a bigger fan of the second-verse than I am the first…not that we need to totally put this track under the microscope or anything, I suppose the point is that the song gets stronger as it plays on…I’d argue the vocals do as well. Musically, I feel like Jake George has been on extremely solid ground from the moment this EP began and that aspect of his songs always comes through…on the mic, I think he’s got one of those defined styles that some are gonna love, others maybe not…that’s just the nature of the game and how people respond to music all-around really. For myself personally, George’s music fits snugly inside playlists of similar sounds from bands I truly love and holds its own for sure…he’s definitely got some great ideas on this record and ends strongly with one of the best of’em on display in “On This Night” to conclude the Heart EP – I’d listen to more from this guy for sure.
Find out more about Jake George & listen to the Heart EP at the official links below!