Jim & Me – Songs The Cat Marcel & I Recorded On Various Smartphones – Album Review + Bonus!
I better skimp on how often I write the title of this record down or this review will write itself – this record has visual GIRTH before you even crack into it! What a title! I’m tellin’ ya for real though…if you get as creative as a moniker like Songs The Cat Marcel & I Recorded On Various Smartphones – you’ve got my attention. Secondly, I’m now dying to meet Marcel – this cat’s obviously got skills yo!
I’ve been doing this music-review thing long enough to know when I’m onto something special…that the tingle running down my spine in starting up this album’s first song “The Sweet Green Dress” was quickly revealing the kind of magic that gets me out of bed in the morning. Interesting first tune…somewhere in between like…hmm…honestly something like Bon Iver and TV On The Radio…and if that doesn’t entice you into listening to this record from Jim & Me, your head is broken. Hopefully your ears are still workin’ okay – because you should hear this tune! “The Sweet Green Dress” gets better with each passing second I swear…and as far as first impressions go, this completely nails it for me. This song moves at such an impressively remarkable & captivating pace, truly…this is one of those ‘sit still & listen’ moments you WANT to give all your attention to. Hearing “The Sweet Green Dress” expand just prior to the ninety-second mark and get the maximum glow & melody to shine as sweetly & organically as it does…is pretty much a highlight moment in my YEAR people, let alone this one song! LOVE the guitars, they’re absolutely spectacular, subtle yet still loaded with hooks of their own…and I mean, the vocals eventually just continue to swell in strength, character, and sweetness until they fully steal the show here. No objections from me – structurally, it’s built on that foundation, and it works entire in Jim & Me’s favor on this first tune to rest so much of the melody on the strength of the vocals – from the lead to the backing layers, “The Sweet Green Dress” reaches beautiful levels of expression through what you’ll hear happening on the microphone complementing the vibe of the music so spot-freakin’-on.
Adding in some spark & brightened spirit to fuel the energy & vibe of “An Atheist” – there’s no doubt that the sunny disposition this tune has will bring people faithfully towards their speakers. For music is the almighty religion folks – the best of’em all I tells ya…accept no substitute! Much like you’d find in Bon Iver’s music, you’ll find the words get swallowed into the thickness of the melody quite a bit here and become a fully immersed part of the overall atmosphere like an instrument could. It’d be unlikely to catch them all, but those that you do, you’ll hear the innate wisdom, thought-provoking lyricism, and emotion that comes attached to the words. I’m never one to argue on behalf of hearing every word…sometimes that’s cool, sometimes it’s not, it’s all a unique situation on every record or song…personally, I’m more than happy to hear how the melody itself connects; a lot of what Jim & Me does employs a method that requires the vocals to carry large portions of these tunes like “An Atheist,” but it’s highly effective. Essentially, you might not always hear every word, but you likely will FEEL them, you dig? The transitions you’ll find in a lot of these songs really show the heart in the writing and the passion in the playing – moments like around the ninety-second mark of “An Atheist” or the inspired acoustic-solo to follow soon after. Jim & Me & the cat Marcel are clearly into the music they make, and it radiates from the melodies, vocals, & music you’ll find, perhaps never more-so than on this very tune.
“A General” is a bit of a trip actually…not without its flaws here & there, but a solidly interesting tune once again from Jim & Me. You can hear a bit of speedin’ up & slowin’ down as this one’s played with a bit more of a cautious & reactionary approach – but you’ll likely also appreciate the organic nature that adds to the vibe of a track like this. At the end of the day, for an acoustic-based sound, the complexity of “A General” might be working against it in that less-is-more sense…hard to say how the people will react to this one definitively. I’m not worried about you Folk/Indie fans out there…you’ll be all over this tune as much as the rest of what you’ll find on Songs The Cat Marcel & I Recorded On Various Smartphones I’m sure. My gut tells me that by comparison to the rest of the majority of these tunes, this one could have used just a lil’ tightening of the nuts & bolts and a bit clearer path to acceptance – but at the same time, if there’s any truth to the title of this record and these songs have in fact been recorded on smartphones, then I mean…like…you kinda gotta hand it to these recordings actually coming out as clear as they do as well. What I love about this track personally is that it starts to deepen the direction of the sound on Songs The Cat Marcel & I Recorded On Various Smartphones – you can hear more of a like, Beatles, Floyd, or early Genesis influence on a short-but-progressive tune like this. As an idea that the everyday listener out there can grab onto, I make no bones about this, it’ll be harder for some ears to fully follow every twist & turn on “A General,” and arguably a few patches of the layers of vocals on this cut that could benefit from a quick tune-up…but the flipside of that whole coin is that “A General” will become one of the most organic and authentic moments of its own on this album.
The down-home sounds of the rhythm & groove of “A Boat” are bound to remind you a little of “The Weight” at times…it’s got that comforting bounce and friendly vibe that you feel like could bust out into a massive sing-along moment spontaneously at any point in time. Ultimately, the charming personality in the atmosphere of “A Boat” has a pretty reliably shiny & universal appeal to it…it’s an inviting cut for sure, and still more than different enough from “The Weight” to totally be its own thing. You get a bit more access to the words here & an opportunity to appreciate both the craft in the imagery & melody – Jim & Me also make use of the backing-vocals magnificently here, to add a noticeable amount of personality into the mix for ya as well. “A Boat” rows on to a unique victory of its own design within this set of songs…it’s an odd lil’ ditty, but I dig the fun & inherent charm you’ll find in a track like this one. Does it hold a candle to something like “The Sweet Green Dress” for me? Not by a country mile. I can definitely appreciate a track to sing & dance along with, especially when it comes out with such thought-provoking & eyebrow-raising lyrics like these to come with it…but just as I feel about the more ‘single-worthy’ sounds & songs on most records, I feel like there’s always more to be found in the surrounding tunes. I wouldn’t turn off “A Boat” – but to say that it’s completely got what makes Jim & Me as unique as this band could be might be more than a bit of a row to shore, know what I mean? There’s stronger material here to be found on this record for sure, but “A Boat” could be a very inviting gateway in.
Because I mean c’mon…once you hear the immediate depth and captivating sound that “A Pretty Little L’yar” comes out with instantly after, you instantly know that’s what you want more of from Jim & Me by comparison to something as shiny in style & easy-to-enjoy for the masses as “A Boat” might be. While I think there’s a chance that the layering & vocals will be the most polarizing part of what Jim & Me creates overall…which is gonna work for some & not for others – I get that, that’s natural…people like what they like, as I always say – musically though – there’s a much more universal path to acceptance for Jim & Me that’s definitely in-play here. Listen to the way a track like “A Pretty Little L’yar” unfolds and makes an instant impact; and how from there on, always stays locked onto that perfect mix of tension, beauty, drama, and melody, keeping the most essential ingredients in the mix intact & continuously entertaining. The result is a song that really takes you on quite the journey when it comes right down to it, up to & including some…hmm…that could either be a flute or a recorder I suppose – but you get the idea, you’ll find a bit more going on behind the guitars in this song by comparison to the other tunes, even if it’s just the one or two elements that make that difference.
The poetic approach to “The Woods” establishes a sincerity quickly on this short tune from Songs The Cat Marcel & I Recorded On Various Smartphones – there’s a mix of sweetness & curious melody in this less-than two-minute tune that comes out strong enough to make an impact despite its gentle disposition. The breath-like percussion guiding the beat is also effective in its own strange way…I wasn’t sure if I liked it or not at first, or maybe felt like it was a bit invasive on the rest of the melody…but I dunno, I kind of ended up feeling like it made a major difference in the imagery of my mind as this song played on. Best way I can put it, is that being a dog owner, and hearing a song called “The Woods,” and having this constant breath-like sound in the mix…regardless of what this cut was actually about, it kept bringing me back to walks I’ve taken and shared with my furry best friend. Ain’t nothing wrong with that…it’s always rad when a song can send you somewhere else, if only in our minds for a moment. “The Woods” is of course, not at all about my dog, or your dog, or any dog for that matter…not all music we listen to necessarily takes us into its intended imagery or meanings, but we can still like enjoy it on a whole other level – and ain’t that all that matters at the end of the day? I’d have to assume that’s a fundamental core value of putting out a record called Songs The Cat Marcel & I Recorded On Various Smartphones – maybe these moments wouldn’t have existed any otherwise without technology & a cat.
I have no idea what “The Jim Juliussen Syndrome” might refer to specifically or entirely for sure…my theory is simply that this is an artist compelled to make music at all times…maybe that’s the ‘syndrome’ part of this title. I just know what I like – and I really like this final track a lot. A ton of Songs The Cat Marcel & I Recorded On Various Smartphones has ultimately provided a TON of sweet surprises and highly engaging melodies along the way…anti-typical ones too; I might dig a track like “A Boat” and its warm & shiny sound as much as the rest of you will, but for me it’s the tracks like this final one here and how this record began with “The Sweet Green Dress” that revealed the heart at the core of this band. And I mean C’MON – listen to around the two-minute mark of “The Jim Juliussen Syndrome” forward and you try to tell me there’s not something ridiculously special about what’s happening here in this band. The harmonics, the brightness in the tone, the joy of making music on display, the creativity – it’s all there & it all sounds freakin gorgeous – smartphones or no smartphones, this is humble artistic gold. None of what Jim & Me creates feels like its pandering to you purposely…it’s all much more like we’ve been invited to a moment in time that couldn’t be duplicated in the same exact way ever again – and that makes tunes like “The Jim Juliussen Syndrome” with its wild, fun, and enthusiastic vocal layers even more precious and enticing somehow. The amount of twists & turns in this song alone merit a high-five – it’s a gentle & tender tune with a whole bunch of changes & movement throughout its structure – but that’s half the magic for sure, hearing how effortlessly this last song glides from moment to moment. Jim & Me finish Songs The Cat Marcel & I Recorded On Various Smartphones on another strong highlight.
But WAIT – there’s MORE! I promised ya a bonus of some sort at the beginning of all this didn’t I?
I’ve got the advance single from the upcoming Jim & Me record coming out titled Isolation Nation – it’s a tune/video that’s called “S. Psychosis.” Probably embracing a bit more of a Pop-influenced Folk/Indie vibe when it comes to the melody & performance you’ll find on their new single…drifting ever-closer to something you might expect to hear from The Lumineers perhaps…which could definitely work in their favor. “S. Psychosis” isn’t lacking for the sweetness you love in what Jim & Me are capable of, and you’ll find that twisted-mix of emotion in the lyricism they’ve put on display throughout the Songs The Cat Marcel & I Recorded On Various Smartphones record…there’s a great chance you’ll be hearing that next phase of evolution in this project when that next album comes out. Commercially, accessibility-wise – don’t get me wrong, it sounds like they’re making the right moves when it comes to “S. Psychosis” and it’s definitely got an inspired spark & melodic brightness that will pull people in no problem; that being said – they’ve got me helplessly addicted to the magic they began with “The Sweet Green Dress” and every single time I let this record repeat itself, they had me hooked all over again for the full ride within seconds of that song starting up. Bottom line I suppose, is that there are certainly multiple dimensions of sound & style to still be explored in the music Jim & Me will create over these years to follow, and just like what we’ve experienced here today, likely to present multiple access-points for listeners to enjoy.
And as for the cat Marcel…well…we can only hope he’s gonna be along for the next adventure – he was clearly essential to this one.
Listen to music by Jim & Me at Spotify here: https://open.spotify.com/artist/598rqI2h1Tmsrtamb50oN7
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