Jeffrey Hull – To All My Friends

 Jeffrey Hull – To All My Friends

Jeffrey Hull – To All My Friends – Album Review

I’ll fully admit…I never really know what to say when someone tells me that they’re ‘done with music.’  Saying “okay” seems like a very short but fairly harsh response, but it’s usually the only one I can ever come up with.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m sympathetic as to why people would feel that way, but I tend to hear something like this every other week and it gets a little old.  I’ve been doing what I do for more than a decade here at this site of ours…more than two decades in total if you count other music sites I’ve written for throughout my career…and have I thought about packing it in?  Of course!  Would I ever say that’s it, forever, no more?  Of course not!  Why close the door on anything in life?  To further the point, I’m fairly sure I can only think of one dude that really meant it when he said he was done forever, and to be honest, he was still very young when he said it…guy’s name was Brian Pampaselle in a project he called Undocument.  I’ll never forget it, because I directly told him he’d be back because of the talent he possessed, and he still hasn’t been – yet.  Jeffrey’s no different in that regard…talented guy, and clearly he’s got a passion for creating music.  Will he be back?  Probably.  Like all artists and bands and creative types out there, we’re a moody bunch and we feel all the feels at all of the times, and we say things.  Like how about Glenn Murawski, who tells me every second month he’s taking a break from making music forever, only to go and remaster his entire catalog of like, six million songs all over again?  We don’t even start making music randomly – we do it because it’s a natural interest.  To say you’re not ever gonna make any more would be the equivalent of saying that you’re not interested in music at all anymore…not making it, not listening to it, not learning more about it, or going out to see concerts…I’m not saying that this could never be the case, of course it could be…but it’s much more unlikely than most would have you believe.  Which is why it’s better for me to just say “okay” to folks that tell me they’re through, and wait patiently for them to return with the next chapter of whatever it is they do as they reinvent themselves again.  Jeffrey’s been putting out music online for a couple of years now…am I truly supposed to believe he did everything he’d want to do inside such a short timeframe?  Really?  “Okay.

We have to motivate ourselves dear readers, dear friends…no one else can do that for you like you can.

To be completely fair to Jeffrey, he did say that “it looks like this will be my last solo album” – so fingers crossed, maybe he just becomes part of a band or a duo or something down the road.  Would I call it quits if I were him?  Nope.  Is it better to never say never?  Yes.  It’s all well beyond my control, this much I know – but I highly suspect that he’s just down for the moment, like so many artists experience.  A momentary setback most likely.  I could always be wrong, and hopefully in this instance I am…I never want to see people full on retire from doing something they clearly enjoyed doing at one point in time.

Anyhow.  Be it the end, or be it the start of a new beginning, To All My Friends is out & available online.  It begins with the title-track, and starts to pump out the familiar, friendly & welcoming vibes we know Jeffrey to create from past experiences with his music as Clear Sun and Mad Hugs.  “To All My Friends” is a playful opening track, filled with swirling synth sounds and a defined low-end that’ll keep your subs workin’ – it’s inoffensive, inviting, and curious in a sweet kind of way.  Very representative of the man we know behind the music really.  When the main switch comes along at around two minute mark, that’s where I became sold on this cut.  I think it’s like…some version of a violin sound perhaps?  I don’t ever really know how the soup gets made, I just eat it, happily.  Whatever that sound is, it’s an exquisite choice…it’s like…half violin, half balloon being pinched at the mouth to let the air out…and I’m lovin’ it.

“I Miss You” continues on leaning into the endearing and oddly charming vibes Jeffrey’s capable of creating, and there’s a lot here that I dig in this track too.  I don’t know that it’s the “woooo” sound he’s got looped in there, but I don’t know that it’s not…I’ll admit, it’s a bit of a hook, but I’d probably have dialed it back a bit in the mix to not be so dominant over the rest, because the rest is straight-up incredible.  So it’s hard to say…I don’t think I would have tossed the “woooo” altogether, and readily acknowledge that it does supply something to this particular track…but is it the main feature?  Not so much…I think everything surrounding it is practically award worthy, and the consistent “woooo” makes it a bit tougher to get at what should be elevated.  That being said, it’s a fun part of the song still…I might have dialed back the volume or had it occur a little less frequently, but that’s what makes me, me, and him, him.  Different strokes for different folks, as they say.  The rest of what’s included into “I Miss You” is undebatable as far as my ears are concerned…everything else you’ll hear is absolutely wonderful.

“Be Kind To Yourself” has a killer beginning to it…this is the kind of intro that would have you instantly scratching your head and thinking “THIS is the guy that’s not gonna make solo music anymore?  Why?” – and I hear ya…it don’t make much sense.  If I could do what he’s doing at the beginning of “Be Kind To Yourself,” I’d personally never stop, but perhaps that’s just me.  Listen to spots like around the 1:45 mark where everything snaps right into place so perfectly…it’s remarkable really.  When you consider how extraordinary the creativity you’re listening to truly is, it’s almost like you’d never expect things to just line up in some kind of linear or logical way – but that’s the thing about Hull, he’s got that ability to make some of the zaniest ideas make sense somehow…and that is a genuine gift y’all.  Overall, I’m really happy with “Be Kind To Yourself” – I’d readily acknowledge that it’s SO damn creative that it’s gonna take fringe listeners a spin or two in order to get their heads around an audible concept like this song has.  It might not be for everyone of course – challenging music rarely is – but for those of us willing to buy the ticket and take the ride, I think you’ll be more than pleasantly surprised by how addictive this track becomes after even just a solitary spin.  There’s a real innocence and joy found in the kind of music that Jeffrey makes…I hear a track like “Be Kind To Yourself” and truly hope this ain’t gonna be the end for him.  Creativity like he’s got needs an outlet, and if it’s not going to be found in music, then where?

So take your own advice Jeffrey!  “Trust Your Higher Power!”  Or…at least, trust mine – and that’s music.  I ain’t the religious type personally, and I don’t believe in a whole lot more than music I reckon…it’s the only truth I’ve heard on this planet of ours as far as I’ve ever known it.  He’s noodlin’ a bit on “Trust Your Higher Power,” but I think a lot of folks that would listen to his material appreciate that he’s willing to color outside of the lines a little bit.  It’s like, Jeffrey builds a core foundation and a track to work with, then decides to layer one more track overtop of it all where he’ll freestyle a bit more creatively, you know?  It’d be akin to an artist drawing something incredible, then making a doodle overtop of the image to somewhat mask the brilliance underneath.  So in terms of a song like “Trust Your Higher Power,” or largely a lot of what Hull has created over time (so far!), our ears are attracted almost magnetically to the top layer of sound like they would be in all music, making it our responsibility to actually dig deeper & hear the amazing level of composition and creativity he’s got buried underneath.  There are a couple ways you could look at it…one being that it’s entirely intentional (which it is), or the other being that he’s not quite recognizing where the main selling features of his music would be to the ears of the masses (which could be the case too).  And I don’t mean ‘selling’ like the bread, the dough, the dollary-dos…I just mean that in terms of accessibility and what the masses can handle.  Which is why I’m a firm believer that it’s an intentional move on Hull’s part…he could certainly make things easier on the people listening, but he’s chosen not to go that route.  Instead, he’s careful to apply that one extra layer that’ll throw most folks right off and challenge their ability to listen.  You live by the sword and you die by the sword, as they say…if you choose to make things more difficult, you gotta live with the results of how people perceive the music too.  I’d be all for that extra layer being removed in many circumstances in favor of a wider degree of accessibility, sure – but I’d also be the first to point out that removing that in Jeffrey’s music would certainly take away a lot of the personality he adds into his tunes as well.  That’s not always a trade I’d be very willing to make, and I doubt he’d want that either overall.

“Believe In Yourself” ends up sliding into a really killer moment around the 1:15 mark, and it shows how smart the guy can be when it comes to what he does choose to include.  Without a doubt, he knows exactly what kind of sound catches the attention of our ears, and he should be commended for that.  It’s not often going to result in music that would be anything that could described as typical – and a lot of the time, it’s those same strange & beautiful sounds that become what defines his material…but there’s still no question about how much it’ll stand out or grab your attention.  “Believe In Yourself” is a bit on the dance-party side and a bit on the artistic side, and both seem to get along well enough.  It’s a bit reliant on the main loops of synthetic rhythm at the core of the melody, but I don’t think Hull is all that worried about that…it’s kind of part & parcel for his music and the methods he makes it with.  It’s still an enjoyable tune, and if anything, it’s largely because there’s a real balance struck between its split personalities that neither really stand out too much.  “Believe In Yourself” is a good track, but it’s not the most memorable of the bunch by comparison…it’s missing that standout element that you usually find in Hull’s material in my opinion, but it still makes for a satisfying listen that you wouldn’t put a stop to.  Every album has an ebb and flow to it…that’s the reality.  “Believe In Yourself” isn’t a low point by any measure really, but it’s not quite rising to the level of creativity you find in the first four songs either.

After you “Believe In Yourself,” then you “Believe In Goodness,” because it’s probably healthy to at least believe in SOMETHING y’all.  “Believe In Goodness” is more defined by its drum tracks at the start, and right around that first minute, you can feel this particular cut going sideways a little.  Like, remember how I was talking about how things shouldn’t be able to logically sync up the way that Hull makes music when I was reviewing the awesomeness of “Be Kind To Yourself” earlier on?  “Believe In Goodness” is more like an example of what happens when that doesn’t happen.  That’s not to say that things are out of place on “Believe In Goodness” though…everything still seems to be in line more or less, it’s just a bit of an aimless tune that seems to wander around without ever really stumbling onto its purpose.  It’d be a track like this that I’d point to in reference to Jeffrey feeling like his music makin’ days are over – and I’d get where he’s coming from if this was all there was, but it’s not.  Where there’s one “Believe In Goodness,” there has already been at least four other tracks that have stood out for noteworthy reasons.  It’d be absolutely awesome if we all stepped up to the plate and cracked the bat for a homerun every single time, but that’s simply not how things work, for anyone.  Besides that – I’m just ONE opinion!  Believe me when I tell ya, I might not think “Believe In Goodness” is the end-all be-all track of the set-list, but there’s probably a ton of listeners out there that could very well feel otherwise.  And if that’s the case, right on – high five from me & no hard feelings.  We all like what we like & love what we love.  All I wanna hear from Jeffrey is that sense of passion and purpose, and I didn’t quite feel like that was very present in “Believe In Goodness” personally, but it could be the effect of its naturally chilled-out sound too…maybe this particular cut was just a little too laidback creatively, that’s entirely possible.

In any event, albums are always about the ups and downs and dynamics on display.  I never fret when one track doesn’t grab me, because chances are the very next one will.  Case in-point, “Listen To Your Heart” immediately had my attention when Jeffrey added the piano to the beat.  Great melody in that part without a doubt…you can feel the weight to it…it’s moving, it’s evocative.  Did he push it one step too far with the stuttered synth layer overtop?  Most likely.  What can I say?  It’s who he is and what he does – and he likes what he likes and loves what he loves…I ain’t here to judge him on that…just calling things as I hear’em is all.  That should likely factor into his decision surrounding making music in the future though.  By my estimation, he really only needs ONE fan to have a reason to keep going – and it’s not you, it’s not me – it’s HIM.  If Hull enjoys the music he makes, that’s every reason to keep making it.  If he doesn’t, obviously that’s a whole other story…no one should feel obligated to do something they don’t wanna do or don’t enjoy.  The flipside of course, is that if he went into this whole journey with the notion that the whole planet would latch onto what he does…he’s gotta remember that he’s purposely made that more challenging for them to do that via that extra layer he likes to add on top.  I’d love to say that listeners out there respond to creativity and uniqueness, but they so rarely ever do.  They like what’s easy to like, and that’s pretty much the recipe, full stop.  So in the case of a track like “Listen To Your Heart,” if Jeffrey had called it a day at the beat & the piano and left it at that, he’d have stumbled into that level of accessibility he’d need, but have to sacrifice or compromise with what he personally wants.  Again…he doesn’t NEED to do that – not if he’s playing for himself and his own reasons.  If he’s looking to pleasure to the masses of Earth, then of course that creates a whole new conversation and set of complications he’d need to reconcile with.  It’s really about what he wants to do with his talents.

And what else do you really need to do with your time here on Earth other than “Dance & Laugh & Sing?”  Work?  Fuck that!  Time is SHORT y’all – make the most you can of it.  “Dance & Laugh & Sing,” just like Jeffrey’s recommending you do here on what’s arguably one of the most accessible tracks on the entire record, if not THE most accessible overall.  This right here is looping at its finest if you ask me – I’m all about this whole track and there’s really not a thing I could imagine anyone picking it apart for.  The real key with looping is that you still want to generate continual interest, and as long as you can do that, repetition is actually invited and welcomed with open arms.  We never feel like “Dance & Laugh & Sing” ever drags creatively for a moment…this track keeps the synapses firing on all cylinders, and I’m 100% positive it’ll be one of the easiest cuts for listeners to like or love found in this entire lineup on To All My Friends.  It’s a heckin’ quality track y’all!  Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for the innate creativity that Jeffrey chooses to use and incorporate through adding that one extra layer and the difference it makes in terms of what stands out and what’s memorable – but there ain’t no shame in just making a track that everyone can enjoy without hesitation either, and this is that song.  “Dance & Laugh & Sing” ain’t polarizing…it doesn’t have that one question sound or moment that won’t make enough sense to your ears…it’s just straight-up slick sound and an incredible vibe comin’ atcha, and you’ll never want it to end.

Back to the synthesized strangeness though!  “We Love You Always” ends up kind of having it both ways – it’s not typical by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s also probably more inviting & accessible than you’d likely assume too.  Like I was tellin’ ya towards the start of this review…there’s a playful innocence to the way Hull chooses to make his music…a humble approach that simply goes with the flow and is quite unafraid to just see where the music will take him.  It’s actually very admirable…in many ways, I wish everyone showed the kind of creative courage he has, even if it doesn’t always result in songs we’d normally have on our playlists or whatever…the world is a better place for having someone like Hull in it doing what he does the way he does it.  There’s melody in “We Love You Always” that’ll connect with those listening…it’s freakishly complex to a degree for sure, and still challenging to the average everyday listener for certain – but Hull invites you to open up your mind and experience something different through the music he makes, rather than only be a mere cookie-cutter version of something that already exists.  At the end of the day, I think that deserves our universal respect, regardless of the results and how much we might personally enjoy any one tune or a record overall.  He’s got integrity – that matters.

“Until Next Time, Be Well” – that’s sage advice right there y’all.  And hopefully, somewhere in there, you’ll find a hint as to what the real future ahead might be like…as in, maybe there WILL be a next time, you know what I mean?  Because I’d never say never…and ultimately, I don’t think that Jeffrey should either.  Dude’s got a whole lot of talent to go with an even larger heap of uniqueness…and throughout writing this entire review over this past week or so as I listened to this new album, I continually scratched my head in wondering what would cause him to stop.  It’s my sincere hope that he doesn’t, but again, the motivation can’t come from me, from you, or from others…it’s gotta come from within.  It’s one of those things…you’ve gotta find a way to love the entire journey and process so much more than the results…I guess that’s been the key to my longevity.  Lord knows if I catered to the six and a half fans I’ve amassed over ten-plus years here, I’d be a way different type of writer at this point.  So I don’t – I simply put my head down, do the work, and assume there are eight fans of what I say…maybe even ten.  But I do this all because I love it – I love hearing what you all come up with, Jeffrey Hull included, and largely because I’m a writer, it’s who I am.  I hope Hull rediscovers the passion that brought him to making music in the first place, or that again, maybe he moves into some other realm of the craft if he’s not gonna make his records solo anymore.  Time will tell the full story as it always does I suppose.  For now, he should be proud of how it currently wraps up…”Until Next Time, Be Well” gives his new record a proper conclusion that’ll please his fan-base, and satisfy any new listeners that have come aboard for this final voyage.  Listen to that incredible rad sound that pops in around the ninety-second mark will ya?  And you’re tellin’ me it’s time for this dude to pack it in?  I suppose I’m here to tell ya he shouldn’t.  Seems like it’s better commentary than “okay” would ever be.  Hull’s been making the music he loves, and it really has become a part of his story…a part of the person that he IS…in the fabric of his DNA.  So I’ll simply say, “Until Next Time, Be Well” my friend…because I truly believe that he’ll be back in action before long, recognizing how crucial it is to continue making art inside a world gone mad if only for our own catharsis.  Talent like he’s got wasn’t meant to sit on the sidelines, and I truly hope that it doesn’t.

Listen to more music by Jeffrey Hull at his official page at Bandcamp here:

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