Jake George – Clear View

 Jake George – Clear View

Jake George – Clear View – Album Review

Talk about wasting no time at all!  Quickly reminding us it’s great to have Aussie artist Jake George back in the mix, the shimmering psychedelic vibes instantly starting up his new album Clear View begin from the very first split-second you’ll hear on “Discover.”  I referred to his music as a blend of Post-Rock & Funk and dubbed it Post-Funk the last time I reviewed his tunes back in 2019 with the release of his Heart EP – and of course I stand by that comment…there’s a lot of that similarly adventurous & exciting sound to be found here in that sense for sure – but you’ll find he’s taken his full-length debut even further down the rabbit hole for us all to follow.  And of course, you know, I’m always happy to oblige.  But you’ll hear what I’m talking about straight off the bat as “Discover” begins – Jake wastes no time in making an audible statement about the trip this audio odyssey is about to become, and gives you a subtle glimpse into the colorful universe of sound, style, and musicianship he’ll be rockin’ ya with.  Bass-lines immediately stand out, and believe me when I tell ya the guitar ain’t far to follow – George takes you on an instrumental journey to start out his debut, dazzling you with a wild collage of sound that has genuine soul, noticeably shiny flare through the use of effects, and a whole bunch of quality ideas in the mix from the composition itself, to the way it’s executed and sounds.  We’re off & running quick when it comes to Clear View – “Discover” is a solid jam that’s enticing and displays a radiant array of sound from moment one – & the fireworks waiting for you just around the corner will crank this party up even more.

Because you see folks…there are good songs, and there are great songs as they say.  Jake George isn’t really one to dabble in a whole lot of good tunes – he writes great ones & executes at an all-star level – so in his case perhaps, even though this record technically still qualifies as his debut, it’s really a matter of there are great songs, and even greater ones.  Obviously you can see above that I was already digging the vibes he was cookin’ up on the instrumental magic of his opening track – but the dude straight-up blew my mind with the second cut on this record called “Investigators.”  There’s a term we folks in the ‘industry’ like to use for a song as strong and compelling as this is…and that’s single-worthy sound y’all – you simply can’t beat how addictive the raw energy and explosion of power Jake creates on this cut.  In fact, I’d go as far as to tell ya with confidence that, after thoroughly listening & knowing that as great as this record IS from start to finish – there is no other single hook that will rival the all-out awesome power & grip you’ll find at the core of “Investigators” – that’s how enormously apparent this song becomes as a choice for a single.  Structurally, the songwriting is impeccable, the energy is off the charts, the vocals are spectacular, the guitars are beyond addictive – and all this is revealed long before you hit the main chorus hooks, of which, once you do, it’s good-game & game-over.  No resisting “Investigators” once you hear that chorus and the incredible way Jake sings this song…it’s just damn killer songwriting and absolutely breathtaking execution, full-stop.  Even as resistant as I can be when it comes to singles & shiny sounds…there is no way on earth we don’t all hear this song the same exact way – that’s the high degree of accessibility we’re talking about here.  It’s a result of passion, confidence, and knowing you’re stuff when it comes time to push record – for this song alone to be on a debut record of any kind is an achievement in itself; this is the kind of cut you create after about ten long years in a band trying.  Lyrically, vocally, musically, structurally…you name it and Jake George is crushin’ it, I promise ya that.

By the time you reach the third track “Reload,” you can already seriously appreciate just how much versatility has been pouring out through your speakers, and you can see how much is still to come with another eight songs still to go on Clear View.  “Reload” is a spectacular example of hybrid sound at work…perhaps not as overtly addictive as “Investigators” may be right off those first couple spins, or at least for myself personally, but I can guarantee that if you’re listening with ears similar to the two upon my own head, you’ll soon discover how essential this cut is to the record overall, and how memorable these main hooks really are.  Honestly though, good luck on trying to put Jake in some kind of definitive category or genre in listening to a song like this…it’s got every bit as much in common with Pop as it does with Rock, pumps out an incredible Alternative sound in the main chorus hooks, and contains all kinds of other elements that could pretty much land it right in the Progressive universe.  Add in the fact that you get a stellar spoken-word appearance from guest-star Jessica Young, and you get where I’m going with all this – Jake’s pretty much packed it all into this one tune from the kitchen sink to the great beyond.  Diversity in sound plays to his strengths, on this song and certainly on this record; “Reload” is an excellent example of the set-up and the pay-off in full-effect.  Adding even more artistic integrity to his street cred, I love everything that happens on this cut between its second & third minute – I love the rest surrounding it too of course, I’m just saying that I dig clever combinations of art & music like you’ll find “Reload” becomes.  It’s audibly like an all-you-can-eat buffet spread…pre-Covid, of course.  Eat up!

I’ve said it a million times and I’ll happily say it a million times more – Australia is one of THE BEST sources for music, if not my number one choice overall.  I’m sure we all develop a strong connection to what we’re surrounded by…in my case that’s Canadian music, which will likely always be my number one love due to the sheer amount of exposure I’ve had to it – but when left to my own devices, I head straight down under to find what that incredible continent & country has to offer next.  “Mystery” in my opinion, is an awesome example of what I’d argue is actually quite a national sound over there – I can think of a few bands from over there instantly that would fit a double-bill with Jake George based on this kind of smoky, slow-burning, and atmospherically-inclined sound.  Having said that, the more brooding mood & melody that enshrouds the vibes of “Mystery” in a heavier cloud of slow-moving intensity, I know what the typical reaction would be from the masses out there, and understandably with this song coming after two songs that have more in-your-face attention-grabbing moments written into’em.  “Mystery” almost goes the directly opposite route, engaging you in a thick & rich idea & far-away, isolated sound that has Jake set way off in the distance as opposed to how up front he’s been in the past couple cuts…it’s only natural to assume that this song will have to battle for affection a bit more than the rest if we’re talking about what most ears tend to latch onto – but as far as the songwriters & musicians & real music-heads will be concerned, they’ll dig on “Mystery” every bit as much as I did.

Inspiration and energy are always things we can hear as listeners when it’s present – and check out the large dose of it all comin’ atcha through the wildly colorful vibes of “No Expression” as it bounces itself through your speakers from the lefts to the rights.  Bringin’ in the FUNk – if you’re not having an awesome time within mere seconds of this track playing, then you’re just straight up missing out on a whole lot of what clearly makes music amazing to listen to & the fuel for the fire in our souls.  Drummer Bibek Tamang shows up once again to lay an all-out spectacular beating on the skins; you’ll find he’s on about half of this record overall, making outstanding & essential contributions every time he pops up.  He’s absolutely part of the reason that “Investigators” comes out as killer as it did – and he continues to keep the beat strong and slick as he moves & grooves at the backbone of “No Expression.”  For what’s likely a front-running candidate for most ironic name to a song that you’ll find this year – or ever for that matter – “No Expression” is loaded with the polar opposite of its titular implications.  Easily one of the more expressive and lively tracks you’ll hear on Clear View – this is an example of sound = color; you can visually SEE this song in your mind as Jake & Bibek are rockin’ it.  Decisively one of the more unique cuts in the lineup and a real standout song for its relentlessly shifting dynamics – “No Expression” will be a hit with the people out there listening for sure.

Someone put a glove on over there and give Jake George a hygienically-safe high-five for me will ya?  Listen to these IDEAS!  Like good lord mate – material like “A Good Day Will Come Around” is all-out remarkable in every way.  Obviously when it comes to instrumentation and execution, we can already tell from the past material he’s made last year, and the sound of the first-half of this record, that Jake is putting in all the attention to detail this album & his music needs, and that the man can seriously play – we KNOW this stuff; it’s audible at every turn.  But to have the IDEAS stand out as much as they do throughout Clear View, track after track, one after the other, so consistently…brother-man, that’s what’s getting the high-five from me.  You just can’t freakin’ beat this cut as far as I’m concerned.  I think that “Investigators” still has the edge when it comes to the power of a single hook – but when it comes to “A Good Day Will Come Around,” this is like, ALL hook, all day – it’s as enticing as sound can possibly be, and as audibly slick & straight-up cool as it can get.  Rarely do you hear a song that you know can pull in the masses out there with a hook in its instrumentation versus the hooks of the vocals – this cut beats the odds on every conceivable level; “A Good Day Will Come Around” has the advantage of both in spades.

“Clear View” has him sounding like Vertical Horizon a bit, which is more than A-OK with me.  You get similarly inspired hooks and solid depth in the structure & melody – you factor in Jake sounding a lot like Matt Scannell as well, and the stunning tone to be found in the guitars, and you’ll hear the comparisons.  That being said, the title-track of George’s record makes about a million twists & turns compared to the average track by Vertical Horizon…proving once again that comparisons are fickle things to begin with, but also that the best ones reveal a flash of inspiration or comparable sound as opposed to being a copy.  Jake more than sets himself apart with the smart mix & balance he puts on display; tons of time for vocals & hooks, but also equal billing with the instrumentation and sharing the spotlight in that sense.  From wild synth sounds to stunning guitar notes bending, electro-effects pulsing, and bass-lines kickin’ up a mammoth storm – you’d almost assume that Jake would be amped-up and pushing the limits of his vocal range to try to match the intensity of “Clear View” – and it’s in not going that route that he reveals another insightful glimpse into the way he approaches music.  Towards the beginning, you’ll find he keeps it all fairly in-line and controls the energy in his vocals with serious professionalism and tone – and as it continues on, he lets that wilder side come out a bit more & more through the edge in his voice.  Right after he gives you a taste of it at peak-intensity, the instrumentation takes over to say the things no words ever could with a brilliant display of sound blastin’ at ya – and then straight back into the smooth control on the extremely large chorus hooks.  What I’m tellin’ ya is, he’s choosing really wisely with the right approach to suit the song with not just what it needs, but actively searching for uniqueness that most don’t, or wouldn’t have a hope in hell of creating anyhow.  George brings justice to the title-cut on his debut and there ain’t no doubt about that – it’s an involved cut for sure, but it’s still packing plenty of access points for the everyday set of ears to find their way in to listen in-full.

I think “The Long Road” might have been the only cut I questioned even slightly…and ultimately, I’m still not gonna complain all that loudly about what’s still a great tune on this record.  Because there are moments folks, where “The Long Road” is about as brilliant as brilliant can be…and for a second or two there, I was 100% convinced without question this would be my favorite song on the album bar none.  Several spins through the album at this point now, I probably wouldn’t quite go rushing to the podium to declare it my number-one cut, but I’d definitely be happy to argue all day long on behalf of the verses being some of the absolute best you’ll find on Clear View.  Oddly enough, it was the chorus on this cut that I wasn’t quite sure…hmmm…did enough for me I suppose – does that make me sound entitled or WHAT?  Here’s the thing…every time this song started up again, with its R.E.M.-esque sound from the mid-90’s so flawlessly executed, I felt like Jake was on the right path entirely; the chorus isn’t flawed or bad by any stretch, just almost on the easy-side for what this guy is capable of.  Had it been more of a split situation, where both halves where on equal strength in that regard, we’d likely never notice – but with the verses coming out as brilliantly ear-catching & compelling as they are, the simplified design of the chorus hits the mark for a solid release of energy, but doesn’t quite reach that same peak of interest that the surrounding parts of this song generate.  So it’s not like we tune out exactly when the chorus comes along – chances are, you’ll probably just start singing along with George and not even think twice about it…all I’m saying is recognize that what’s keepin’ ya there to begin with is how incredible these verses sound.  I’m a massive fan of the way that Jake’s done his vocals for this cut on both parts really, the effects are extraordinary in texture and his tone is spot-on; again, overall I’m not complaining at all.  And I mean, I ain’t gonna lie to ya…I’ve been singing along myself plenty, it’s seriously memorable, and it’s got great energy…the more I listened, the more the chorus grew on me…and it seemed to happen pretty quickly over time…so you never know, a couple more runs through this record and I could be convinced that “The Long Road” might just be a single-worthy cut as well, it’s honestly hard to say.

Jake ends up reminding me of Minus The Bear in a few cuts on this record as well, “Goodnight” being one of them.  Ultimately, that’s probably a much better comparison to be made to a lot of what you’ll hear from George in the sense that you’ll almost always find sparkling instrumentation in the music that stands-out, and anti-typical hooks, structure, and composition alongside it.  If you want completely 100% accessible, he’s proven he can do that with “Investigators” early on in this lineup; I think Jake deserves a lot of credit for pushing his creativity even further into the beyond with songs like “Goodnight” that expand his ideas in multiple directions we’d never remotely see coming.  I suppose what gives a song like “Goodnight” that extra Minus The Bear-like sound is that the vocals come out sounding more similar in tone to that band’s music this time around – which again, is more than cool with me.  Musically, I think there’s almost always a comparison to be made between what a lot of George does & Minus The Bear…it’s the vocals that bring out the more pointed comparison in review here.  You sure can hear the difference it makes when Bibek gets into the mix on a couple of these cuts – the dude’s a complete machine & human metronome back there on the kit, bringing audible personality, super-charged charisma, and tremendous technique to songs like “Goodnight.”  I’m all about this track personally…there’s a ton of outstanding material to choose from on this record for sure, but I continually came back to “Goodnight” as being one of the most essential in the entire lineup.  Jake’s a great singer…it’s hard not to get wrapped up in all the incredible instrumentation he brings to any given song, but it’s in tracks like “Goodnight” that you really appreciate how much he brings to the mic too.

Low-key groovin’ and psychedelically chilled to the max, “In The Rain” is a spectacularly understated cut that’ll make a surprising impact on ya.  First of all, come on y’all…those bass-lines yo!  If you’re not feelin’ those, you’re listening with the wrong holes on your body – try again.  It’s a great example of a track that, while there’s no doubt it’s probably more of a niche cut on the record, is also one with the strength to pull in people that likely wouldn’t always give something like this a chance – a lot of that is due to the clever layout of Clear View, and a whole lot more is due to the ever-engaged, inspired, passionate, and tremendously well-played music & ideas that always flow throughout Jake’s material.  It’s literally because he’s been so captivating & charismatic from start to finish, that no matter how he chooses to transition the sound or where he heads to next, we follow along readily, happily, and with genuine excitement in anticipation of what’s to come at all times throughout the album.  It plays to his advantage when moving to more defined atmospheres like “In The Rain” for sure…Jake’s done nothing on this album but continuously supply reasons for you to keep on listening.  Probably a solid bet that “In The Rain” might need to fight for your attention a bit more than others with its chilled-out demeanor, but that being said, I’m fully confident the rhythm & groove he’s laced into this trip is more than worth taking for all ears concerned, and that in the end, you’ll find it’s just as strong of a cut as any other on Clear View.  The verdict has long been in by this point on the record – George slayed this debut with a verifiable onslaught of unique ideas and outstanding instrumentation he should truly be proud of.  Bonus points for the savagely retro vibe that runs through “In The Rain” – it’s more addictive than you’ll assume at first, but believe me when I tell ya, Jake’s done nothing but continually knock it outta the park on the songs from Clear View; this track is certainly included just as much as the others in that regard.

Again…those BASS-LINES…are freakin’ EXQUISITE to listen to – check out the impact they make in the vibrant spark & energy that runs throughout the final cut “Red Rainbow.”  I haven’t mentioned this by now and I should have – but aside from the drums on several cuts I’ve outlined, and the spoken-word appearance from Jessica earlier on in “Reload” – everything you’re hearing is all Jake George and nothing BUT Jake George – so give the man some serious credit for what he’s achieved, because he’s got a verifiably awesome record here by any measure, not just for a debut.  While I was jamming this last track, I started thinking again about how most musicians out there are primarily defined by the main instrument they play…and I think that, the impression so many people would get from Jake’s music when they hear him light up a solo with his axe is that he’s a guitar player first & then perhaps the rest comes second – but honestly, I’m not even sure that’s the case.  What makes so much of this record impressive is the balance of strengths he puts on display through all the instrumentation, vocals, and ideas together; it might seem kind of obvious to say that a one-man unit plays with a unified style, but that’s the case here.  Jake George sounds like a full band with multiple players, all dialed right into the vision for how these songs are gonna turn out, and at the end of the day, it’s mainly just him & him alone, every time.  So if you’re looking for a reason to hand out even MORE bonus points to this talented madman of music, there’s as good a reason as any you’ll find right there…he had no one to answer to but himself, and he’s pulled off what so many cannot in creating an album that’s tight from wall to wall without question.  Excellent sound selection has led to victory here – and “Red Rainbow” leaves you with a bright & bold display of a ton of what has made this whole album great; from the radiant guitars to the smart electro elements in the background, the bass-lines movin’ & groovin’ and the beats comin’ atcha quickly – Jake George has left it all out on the field with this record and has every reason to believe that the superhuman effort he’s put in will lead to his debut album holding up strong for a lifetime…maybe even two.

If you haven’t rushed out to buy it already, it’s definitely an album I’d be keeping in mind for the ol’ upcoming Bandcamp Friday special happening on November 6th where you can be sure he’ll get every dime of your support – you’ll hear he’s earned it with all he’s put into this fantastic debut record – well done Jake.

Find the music of Jake George at Bandcamp here:  https://jgeorgemusic.bandcamp.com

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