Jas Frank & The Intoits – The Girl From Cherry Valley – Album Review
Music-scenes have always been a fascinating thing to me. Certainly, there are times documented whereby one band will make it big and everyone else will move there to become a part of it…that’s one way that they tend to become established, but in others, it can be much more organic than that. Take for example, whatever’s happening over there in Croatia right now. When I put on the new record from Jas Frank & The Intoits, my first thoughts were about how fresh this entire album’s worth of ideas seemed to be – these songs spring from your speakers with radiant harmonies & melodies that hit the mark. My second thought was…when was the last time I sincerely felt that way about music I’ve heard? It wasn’t too far back actually, there’s always something amazing coming through these studio speakers – but what surprised me about the name that instantly came to my mind, which was the band called The Basewalks, which also happen to be out of Croatia, who we learned about last year. Whether the two bands know each other or not, I have no idea – but coming from the same region of the world with such impressively inspired & innovative sounds, it’s becoming clear that something special is happening over there. Fans of the Indie Pop/Rock scene – it seems like Croatia has everything you could possibly want; both of these bands I’ve mentioned aren’t just good, they’re freakin’ awesome and clearly a step ahead of the rest of the world when it comes to the music they make…now it’s time for everyone to catch up.
The blending of sound & style is a complete asset in Jas Frank & The Intoits – you can see a list of eclectic influences on their music at their main website…and you can hear a lot of that influence show up in their songs. What I love about this band in particular, is that they didn’t compromise their own vision in the process; you might actually hear the influence of Nirvana in a part of their songs for example, but you’ll hear it through the defined filter of the way that Jas Frank & The Intoits want to sound. No carbon copy of any one thing, there’s a conscious choice to keep the sound versatile and open to possibility, which sends The Girl From Cherry Valley into all kinds of cool ideas & unique songs. Make no mistake – this is a band that has incredibly strong material and a truly fantastic album here.
I was already impressed with the uniqueness in their whole sound as “High In Space” started up and the album began, the pre-chorus is amazing, but that shift into the first chorus was a complete confirmation that there was indeed, a magic shared between the players in this band that can truly be heard. As Jas Frank & The Intoits transitioned back into the verse, it was like hearing the freshness in that initial opening all over again; a completely welcome sound & style that flows with authentic melody and beautiful sentiment. Progressively, throughout this first introduction to the record and to the music of Jas Frank & The Intoits, every moment as the seconds ticked by got better and better. As far as vocals and harmonies go, this is top-shelf stuff and executed beautifully; as far as moments like the breakdown & the instrumentation found on “High In Space,” everything is seriously impressive in how intense it all actually is while how chilled-out the sound of this song remains…extremely well done. There’s not a thing I’d dare to pick apart on this extremely well-produced, performed, and sweet Indie-Pop sound; Jas Frank & The Intoits display innovation and uniqueness in their music and perfect tones in the vocals that communicate the sincerity of the emotion or meaning in the words spot-on. It’s also one of a couple times they’ll remind me of Faded Paper Figures on this record, which is more than fine with me…I get a sweetness in that Indie-Pop part of them that often resembles the powerful harmonies & sound of a band like All American Rejects at times as well…Jas Frank & The Intoits are ultimately unlike either of them on their own, but you’ll hear similarities at times for sure if you’re familiar with the music.
“Human Animal” moves with a cautious & careful structure, designed to use the space surrounding them as an asset in the mix. The effect succeeds with gripping results; even though the sound of the music is gentle and inviting to listen to, you’ll find the pull towards this one stronger than you might think for a sound so chilled out. I think the ice-like & crystalline synth melody line works extremely well, the bass & low-end rhythm perfectly fill in the vibe alongside the subtle beat, and the way the guitar is even threaded into the mix so distantly…it all sounds really impressive to the ears. Especially mix-wise, if you’re one of those producer-type people, you’ll appreciate the separation of sounds and the relationship between them all within “Human Animal.” There’s a sly & slick movement to the verse that I think will appeal to many ears out there…it’s a chilled-out groove that’s not going to punch you in the face or fight for your attention, but it will secure it through its own glass-like sound & emboldened vocals that come along with it. I dig subtle ideas like how the vocals change-up with the effect heading into the third minute, and I think they once again nailed the backing vocals & how they complement the entire vibe on “Human Animal.”
Up to this point, I think Jas Frank & The Intoits have written really well designed songs to start the album – but I also think that there’s zero doubt about the increase of universal accessibility that springs to life on the third tune from The Girl From Cherry Valley, called “So Far Away.” We’re talking about all the hallmarks of a hit song here…”So Far Away” is literally & audibly built upon hook after hook after hook. You’ve got’em in the music, chiming in with that acoustic accompaniment complemented the overall vibe immaculately…the vocal melodies continually engage, revealing part after part that is as catchy as it is endearing. Definitely one of those songs that’ll really surprise you; you’ll likely feel like you get the idea and quickly start singing along with this one, but be ready, there are multiple parts that continually display more & more appealing sounds to pull you in. Essentially, “So Far Away” isn’t just a single-worthy tune, it’s about 4-5 singles in ONE…truly a standout tune on The Girl From Cherry Valley. If anyone out there remembers the song…hmm…it’s called “Your Woman” by a band called White Town – big hit in the 90’s if I remember correctly…again, overall, completely different songs entirely, but listen to the way that acoustic riff serves as a major hook in the song and you’ll find that similarity in the composition of both songs. There wasn’t one time where I spun this record over the past couple weeks where I didn’t immediately feel like I was listening to a single with “So Far Away” – the way the lyrics wind through the melody, the timing, precision, tone, harmonies…it’s absolute perfection, full-stop. To my ears personally, I not only hear a great song on the recording here, but I also hear the genuine potential for a true time-stopping moment and memorable highlight of one of their live shows here.
The Indie Pop/Folk style they work with really suits them well on “Virtual Friends.” Between the sound of the vocals and ideas in how Jas Frank & The Intoits use their melodies & backing vocals, like I said earlier, they remind me a lot of Faded Paper Figures, especially when they add that digital & synth infusion to their songs. Even tackling technology versus humanity like they do on “Virtual Friends” is a similar theme you’ll find shared between the two bands. Exploring that disconnect between our humanity, technology, and the latest trends, they expertly weave a solid tale on “Virtual Friends” and contrast sound brilliantly in the flow of the melody on this tune. The verse is almost desolate in its mood, setting up the inspired spark that flows through the vibe in the chorus to make even more of an impact. As far as hooks go, the way this song’s chorus comes out is certainly among the strongest you’ll find on a record that is full of material all worthy of contending for a spot at the top of your playlists. Excellent punch and dynamics in the call-and-answer approach to the chorus vocals…they dig into life, love, relationships, internal emotions…and I suppose, implied by the lyrics, ultimately, moving on & acceptance as well. There’s an oddly empowering thread in the words of this tune that’s bizarrely inspiring in its own unique way…like you can hear from the way that the music comes out sounding so invested in this moment that having “Virtual Friends” only might not be such a bad thing if it leads to songs like this, know what I mean?
“All The Highs All The Lows” is a great example of a gateway tune that’ll reveal a lot about the emotional melodies & music they’re capable of creating on The Girl From Cherry Valley. I think the acoustic riff & slight keyboard (programming?) sounds are a huge win together, especially in the breakdown of this song towards the end – but along the entire distance, you’ll discover a verifiably pleasant sound & poetic approach to “All The Highs All The Lows.” The lead-single from the album, it’s also got a solid video supporting it that you can check out below…I think it was a great choice to put out there first, it’s an excellent introduction into a lot of the great aspects of Jas Frank & The Intoits from the lyricism to the golden harmonies, vocals, and melodies they’re capable of. Perhaps most importantly, I think it gives them a lot of room to make that even bigger impact through the next release, which is a strategy employed by bands & artists that have a wealth of material to choose from, just like this band does. The writing has been impressive from the moment this album began and continues to be on “All The Highs All The Lows,” bringing that Ben Gibbard-esque observational style laced with brilliant & clear imagery in the words as they’re being sung. The video that comes along with it brings an additional sweetness to this single from The Girl From Cherry Valley, following a storyline that’s truly just a moment in time on earth, but examined through a beautiful lens that appreciates the beauty in the simplest of pleasures. Definitely suits the mood, sentiment, and atmosphere in this song – check it out for yourself and click play on “All The Highs All The Lows” below yo!
I’m a giant fan of the way this band records their vocals and “In A Hole” is a fantastic example of why that is. Listen to the subtle layering, the way the harmonies are added or subtracted, and the effect it has on the impact each part makes – it’s extremely well crafted. I gotta admit as well, as far as transitions are concerned, “In A Hole” likely makes my favorite one on the entire record with its defined switch into Grunge-Pop at about ninety-seconds in – brilliant. This is an example of like, how I mentioned you’ll be able to hear the influence of a band like Nirvana on Jas Frank & The Intoits, even inside of what’s inarguably a brighter sound – they’re not hiding it here, they’re embracing it beneath the surface. And I get it…at first with the sweet Simon & Garfunkel-esque harmonies and impressive uniqueness in the way the music moves, you’ll think I’m crazy for even bringing up Nirvana on this tune – but give it time, I firmly believe that if you’re a true fan of the band, you’ll hear that influence here. Also, for the record, I’m certainly not complaining – I’ve been kicking ass with this record for the past couple weeks and this song is continually one on the record that provides that uplifting explosion of pure Alt-Rock goodness I’ve ALWAYS got time. The balance between the lead-vocals and backing vocals on this cut are as good as it gets…it’d be hard to argue that the edgy guitars don’t end up stealing the show on “In A Hole” with the bold impact they make when they start firing it up, but make no mistake dear readers, dear friends, what’s happening on the microphone in this band from every one of them that’s plugged in, is making much of the pure magic in this band springing to life in incredible ways. They’ll prove that to you beyond the shadow of a doubt in the next tune, “Unlight The Light.”
“Unlight The Light” is also an amazing example of how much of a pivotal role the vocals play in this band. The opening verses and the flow, tone, and melody are exceptional; so good that you’ll be at risk of missing the incredible, breathtaking, and clever music happening in the background if you’re not careful. That’s what I love about the drum-led breakdown on “Unlight The Light” – it kind of resets your focus and has you realizing just how wonderfully unique the music of this song really is. The chorus of this tune is cunningly revealed…the first time you’ll hear it, you’ll dig it – by the time it really takes shape as the song plays on, describing the chorus as anything less than entirely addictive would be inaccurate. Definitely another massively accessible cut when it comes to that main hook…even overall really; I think each part of “Unlight The Light” has remarkable strengths and bulletproof ideas that seriously hit home. Between “In A Hole” and “Unlight The Light,” for weeks now, I’ve pretty much rotated my mornings by waking up with the hooks of one of these tunes stuck in my head…again, I’m not complaining. It also tells me something about the writing and the power of those hooks…believe me, they’re both songs you’ll remember for all the right reasons. I’ve I’m here to give out the award for most accessible…I think by the time that “Unlight The Light” reaches peak-boldness & beauty in the execution of the chorus, it’s bar-none probably the strongest hook on the entire record. Along the journey there, you get a wicked roll through the rhythm & flow of the verse, the brilliantly smart drum-variation of the chorus for the first introduction to that part, the beautiful vocal melody and seriously clever instrumentation – “Unlight The Light” is a memorable highlight on this album without question, with its biggest moments coming right at the end with about forty-seconds to go, where everything comes together in the grand-finale. If we’re talking about music that gives you a reason to come back to it, Jas Frank & The Intoits devilishly tease you with the powerful perfection and gripping melody of this song’s final moments…it makes “Unlight The Light” something you, like, you don’t just want to come back to it – you NEED to.
Sincerity in their emotion and how genuine Jas Frank & The Intoits continually sound are what sells you. Listen to how the melody forms throughout “In Early Mornings” and how impressively ambitious such a subtle tune can be. Almost deceptively low-key, the chorus of “In Early Mornings” is beautifully bright & heartbreakingly sad at the same time, contrasting the emotions between the lyricism and sound of the music in noticeably powerful ways that make a true impact on our hearts & minds. The ‘whoa-oh-oh’ chants at the end of this song were like the cherry on top of what’s been a great experience already…and that like…theramin-like sound laced into the music was another perfect addition to the mix. As far as the writing goes, I think “In Early Mornings” shows just how innovative and smart Jas Frank & The Intoits really are…LISTEN to how they’ve structured the words in this melody…notice the precision-perfect placement of the words & syllables throughout the song and the amount of time taken to still add personality, charm, and sincerity you can truly hear. I do think that after the highlight of “Unlight The Light” occurring just moments before, that the longer intro through the verse of “In Early Mornings” takes a couple spins through the record to appreciate more than a first listen will reveal – but eventually you’ll come to the same conclusion I have in respect to how well it serves the overall structure. When you hear that chorus come bursting in with its tangible brightness shining in the melody and the impact that makes on this experience, you’ll appreciate what the contrast brings to this. It’s Indie-Pop that radiates that kind of endearing & thought-out melody that connects & hits us listeners right in the heart, pulling at our emotion through the sincerity & sweetness of sound.
Amping-up the distortion more to add in the punch to “When The Rain Stops,” Jas Frank & The Intoits make solid use of the loud/quiet dynamic here, shifting between a chilled-out acoustic approach in the verses before throwing the switch and electrifying the chorus. For me, this particular tune was one of the songs that I felt like, were it any other band, it might come out much more ordinary – Jas Frank & the Intoits continually add brilliant color to their sound and passion in the way they play their music. As a result, tracks like “When The Rain Stops” end up exceeding expectations – you can feel vibes like these. Ain’t no doubt that they come out gunning on the chorus of this cut, bringing up the rumble of the bass and guitars to the max and shifting the song from its delicate chill and into a force for your speakers to reckon with. Best way I can put it perhaps, is that, while performed to exceptionally high standards and full of excellent musicianship, composition-wise, it almost sounds like the kind of cut that Jas Frank & The Intoits could write any time they like – they could likely sneeze and a song like “When The Rain Stops” would come out into the Kleenex, know what I mean? So credit to the band…I didn’t feel like they really let you in on that through the way they play & perform this tune, but in terms of that special X-factor many of the songs on this record provide, especially the three that come out directly before “When The Rain Stops,” it feels like it’s missing, like this tune came out more ‘normal’ somehow.
I’ll admit, when I first listened to the title-track, I wasn’t entirely sold on it, or perhaps wondered whether or not it completely fit the sound of the rest of the record. With repeat spins, I eventually gave in a lot more; while I was never 100% it belonged in the lineup, I did eventually come to the conclusion that this is another really strong tune for Jas Frank & The Intoits. Ultimately, a lot of that came down to the fact that, the chorus hooks are incredibly memorable and the impressively rhythmic flow this song finds towards the end. I also loved the Gorillaz-meets-Blue Oyster Cult-like bass-lines that ran through this tune and the overall feeling of intrigue & mystery that shines hazily through the vibe of the music on “The Girl From Cherry Valley.” Like seeing dust dance in the sunlight, many of these atmospheres they’ve created hang suspended in the air and create a captivating experience that holds us locked in & focused on the spectacular but subtle beauty that exists, right there in front of us. Something about it feels a bit more separated from the rest of the material on the album, but at the end of the day, not so far removed that I should be complaining about it…Jas Frank & The Intoits have provided me with a completely diverse, versatile, and all-out vibrant experience in music throughout this entire record, and it’s a ride I’ve been truly grateful to have been on the whole time. They don’t just have an excellent album on their hands with The Girl From Cherry Valley, the entire band has a sound & style of their own to truly be excited about.
Find out more about Jas Frank & The Intoits from their official website at: https://theintoits.com
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