Joe Jermano – Dreaming In Color – EP Review
Highly enjoyed my time with this record – Joe Jermano has got a tremendous amount of skill. As a musician, he’s killin’ it…as a songwriter, he’s killin’ it…and a vocalist, he…is…killin’…IT – you hearing me people? I could listen to Dreaming In Color all damn day, Joe puts together some highly imaginative and brilliantly written rock songs together, and they’re a serious pleasure to listen to. I know the odds are bizarrely stacked against a sound like Joe’s…but for the life of me, I honestly don’t know why that is. A lot of the sound of Dreaming In Color reminds me of The Verve Pipe’s pop-influenced rock – and though they of course enjoyed a hit or two, mainstream-wise they were always a tough sell to the masses. In my opinion, that’s still great company to keep…easy hits tend to wear out…sometimes it’s much better to bubble below the surface and just make an absolutely killer record that’ll hold up over time, like Joe has.
There are zero dead-spots in this set of seven tunes. Rock-based, progressive tendencies, pop-melodies influencing the hooks…I mean, it’s a seriously well-rounded and commendable effort here. Lyrically & thematically, it’s cohesive as well…like I was saying, Joe’s put together a solid record, wall-to-wall; Dreaming In Color is compelling, engaging, & wildly entertaining to listen to. Case in-point however – if you are familiar with The Verve Pipe’s sound, you’ll hear those similarities creep in immediately on the EP’s opening tune, “Losing Sleep.” Like I said, that’s just fine by me…that’s more of a great thing and I’ll certainly take it; I know many of you out there that appreciate & seek-out quality & passion in the chops & hooks of the music you listen to will feel the same way that I do…which is, to be clear, excited! “Losing Sleep” is a great start to the whole experience – it’s got incredible crunch & tone in the guitars, loved the recording of the vocals and the smooth performance from JJ, the steady beat is rock-solid, and by the time he starts into the inventive chorus as the song trips past its first minute, you can instantly hear the creative artist in music that this man truly IS. Straight-up dear readers, dear friends – you don’t get to a sound like this and twists in the writing like Joe’s put into that switch between verse & chorus without having a seriously masterful grip on composition, songwriting, structure – and the talent to go with it all. If you’re listening through the right holes on your body, “Losing Sleep” should make an instant impact on you…you can’t miss an innovative sound that’s as exploratory and skilled as this is.
Listen to the incredible detail in a song like “Witching Hour” – I think this is truly extraordinary. There’s like…a folk-rock storyteller-vibe on this tune…Joe has found a similarly emotionally edgy sound for the music, like Toad The Wet Sprocket at their most intense at the beginning of this tune, with the vocal flow sounding almost more like Michael Stipe would approach it – like listen to that spot around the thirty-five second mark, that’s comparable for sure! Surrounding those moments, it’s probably still much closer to Toad for the most-part, I can admit that. Same thing though, once Joe hits the heights of the same spot at the 1:35 mark, I’m just as fascinated with the writing as I was the first time I heard his vocals soar to that sweet spot in the hook. Anyone that reads these pages on the regular knows just how much love I’ve got for every comparison I’ve made so far – truly, I love this record and I think Joe has already presented himself as a stunning performer and incredibly capable musician. As if on cue to punctuate the point, Joe takes “Witching Hour” into a near-Queen departure for a completely awesome moment around the 2:30 mark in a switch you’d never see coming in a million years. What a songwriter! On a lyrical-level alone, JJ always finds a way to thread words together like he’s assembling a puzzle, finding the perfect pieces in words to fit the meter and pace of the music insightfully well while still somehow able to include the exact words that would express his thoughts best. As a writer of some of those word-things myself, I gotta say – this guy certainly has my respect for what he’s able to do with his lyricism and how many levels it all seems to run on when you get right into the words he’s singing.
As far as I’ve read, “Reaching For Clouds” is the lead-single from Dreaming In Color – no objections here. The flow of the words is freakin’ brilliant…real songwriting that lasts here, with melody that absolutely hits the mark – it’s pure awesomeness to listen to Joe harmonize the vocals on the main hooks of “Reaching For Clouds.” I think the chorus came out exceptionally well…the verse was like, Peter Gabriel level of cool…like, you know those moments where he’d switch up his sound and then launch into something completely new and awesome, for like the fifth or six time in his career? That’s the kind of cool I’m talking about here, THAT level of Gabriel’s coolness. Or like, at the very least like a Mike Rutherford for the slick way that “Reaching For Clouds” delivers its melody. Lyrically, there’s no argument to be made for anything other than “Reaching For Clouds” being of the highest caliber – it’s jaw dropping stuff, truly. Joe’s voice is so full of bold character and absolutely killer tones, it really doesn’t matter what song you end up listening to on this record, you’ll find him continually at his best. Really smart electro additions in the atmosphere give this tune extra layers of sonic depth to captivate ya. Kind of reminds me of the Canadian band Barstool Prophets or Barney Bentall even with the mix of insightful wisdom in the sound of the vocals/storyteller-aspect of “Reaching For Clouds” & how it really makes you appreciate the texture in the atmosphere & fully contributes to the whole vibe in the music. Might want to be mindful of that red-line for the low-end as the song gets close to the end, there’s a bit of extra rumble around the 3:40-3:45 mark that might push that threshold beyond its max – but that’s an easy trade for the catchy chorus, great vocal rhythm & flow, and seriously engaging & cool listening experience that “Reaching For Clouds” is through & through, time & again. Very strong songwriting.
The impressive sound & flow of “Dream Control” never quits. Darkly danceable, “Dream Control” has an incredible layer of rhythm & groove that runs through it at all times. Ultimately, I think it’s one of the most distinct sounds that Joe’s got on Dreaming In Color – this song has its own vibe & charisma that satisfies through its versatile structure and vibrantly colorful imagination. Loved the reverb/distortion combo on the guitar sounds to open the song and the launch into rock with real flavor & movement in the verse, almost like there’s an underlying current of a salsa beat guiding this song’s sound along the way – however you want to describe it, it’s definitely a really unique track on this record. I have the feeling it might have to fight for attention at first within this stunning lineup of seven, but I do think that just like every song on this record, it will certainly hold up on repeat…and it’s on those subsequent listens that the impressive amount of attention to detail and different twists that JJ has put into “Dream Control” will get noticed the most. That’s the long way of saying that there’s more of artistic effort & ideas being put forth on “Dream Control” – less concerned with accessible hooks or just rocking out. Ain’t nothing wrong with that…especially when the results come out this well; there’s a captivating sound that runs through the pace & intensity of the music & lyrics combined and the chorus should certainly have enough brightness & hooks in it for those looking for that kind of access-point. JJ is a bold and courageous singer…I really think he writes impressively dynamic parts to sing and I absolutely love that you can hear him go after EVERY line with everything he’s got and every intention of delivering the best vocals he possibly can. According to the ears on my face, he’s doing an exceptional job of all that.
“Recurring Dreams” has a classic-rock vibe to its sound…wild like an updated Thomas Dolby idea, but with a thicker layer to its edge & meatier style. I kind of have the feeling even Dolby would be jealous of the hooks that Joe has tapped into here for this cut – that chorus is highly memorable & certain to get stuck in your head for days. The guitar solo that exists on this track…like…for real…I just straight-up don’t have the vocabulary required to explain how badass the tone is or how well it suits this song. Right around the ninety-second mark or just past it – that’s the money spot in this tune in my opinion. Sometimes the best solos are the ones that just fit right…they don’t need to be long or overtly flashy, they just need to truly FIT the idea and song itself…I felt like Joe nailed that here on “Recurring Dreams.” I also really thought that, aside from the incredible guitar-tones he’s latched onto throughout this song, Joe also really crushed that final run through of the chorus with the mix and gave it a stunning sound to end it on powerful notes & strong ground; it’s the perfect way to lead into the record’s biggest moment.
The most massive surprise of the EP roars up near its end, with the explosively amped-up ride through Joe’s “World On Fire.” How do I put this…how do I explain why this was as surprising as it was?
…okay, I suppose the best way I can put it to start, is that the particular tone & grind of the distortion on the guitars is typically NOT my sound at all…we’re talking like, Joe’s practically thumbing for a ride on the highway to the “Danger Zone” – you feel me? It’s that kind of REAL 80’s rock sound in the guitars that is built for driving at top speed with the top down…or like, you know, flying a fighter jet if you’re feeling like getting your Top Gun on. You get the point – either way, you’re Cruisin.’ See what I did there? It is not, for the record, usually something you’ll find me this enthusiastic about…but facts are facts, “World On Fire” should likely be the lead-single from this record – I couldn’t get enough of JJ’s approach to fired-up sound in this tune and the riotous rock energy it attempts to harness. In many ways, I felt like it had the most ingredients that would regularly add up to something I could resist – and in every way I felt like resisting this cut would be futile. “World On Fire” is ENORMOUS…it’s grandiose, over-the-top, flashy…and MAN is it AWESOME. Vocally, this is Joe at maximum strength & power…you honestly couldn’t ask for a better performance from him on this cut; there are enhancements/effects in-play here for sure, but for the most part, it’s that straight unfiltered Joe and his raw power that creates the insanely gripping hook & pull towards the ideas and sound of “World On Fire.” Chorus wise – I mean…for real, that’s GIGANTIC…in terms of a hook, that’s powerful enough to grab anyone/everyone within earshot. Idea-wise it’s likely the most universally accessible cut on the entire record. I think Joe gets a bit on the excited side with the drum-lines sometimes, but he didn’t push it so far that it cost him here…close JJ…it’s a cautionary observation. For the most part, I like what he’s got going on there too – they do add a lot of punch and definition throughout the song, and it’s not until towards the end of the track that I felt like they started to become a more dominant part of the sound in what we notice. And all I’m ultimately saying is that the hooks and natural organic power in “World On Fire” needs little extra help – Joe’s written a stand-out track here that is hot enough to scorch your speakers as it plays. The keyboard parts are some of my favorites on Dreaming In Color and a major asset on “World On Fire.”
Musically, the final track & title-tune of the record is certainly one of the most satisfying and colorful combinations of rock & melody that you’ll find on Dreaming In Color. That being said, I’m honestly a little more torn on this last song than I am about any of the others…on the one hand, I love the piano lines – they’re perfect. I like the dramatic & theatrical sound that comes through the writing, structure, and performance. What I’m tossed up on, is the auto-tuner on “Dreaming In Color” – I’m not an auto-tune hater, I just don’t know that Joe’s vocals ever do, or ever WILL, need its assistance. I somewhat felt that even on “World On Fire,” even though I felt like what he was doing there worked 100%. On this cut, you get a bit more of that noticeable robotic effect than you do on any of the others by comparison…and I get it, I get it, it’s always cool to experiment with that kind of stuff and there are moments where you can notice its use in other spots on the record as well…so admittedly, he’s using it sparingly and to his advantage in giving our ears something new to listen to at all times. Anyhow – aside from the vocal aspect, I think there’s a ton happening in the music here that inarguably gets full marks. “Dreaming In Color” is an inventive and transformative tune that incorporates many layers into the mix, but ends up resulting in a full-bodied brew of time well spent. It’s an ambitious tune that reaches for more, and in the process, still finds a large degree of success…I think there’s a lot of personality and charm in the sound of the music and vocal melodies of “Dreaming In Color” that makes it another solid addition to this record and testament to the versatility in Joe Jermano’s fringe-rock.
Maybe a tick or two in production at times, maybe an adjustment here and there on the volume, or a few less beats from the drums in the occasional spot – but make no mistake, for the better part of this entire experience, it all sounds stunning. This guy writes one hell of a tune and is one of the most expressive artists I’ve heard in rock this year without question. None of the criticism I’ve had here couldn’t be resolved instantly, if it’s even necessary at all – it certainly doesn’t affect the quality of the experience overall and just how enjoyable this entire record truly is. The ultimate impression that Joe’s leaving on me personally, is that the ideas you’ll find in this artist are ALWAYS going to be filled with wild entertainment, incredibly vibrant & imaginative sounds, songwriting with genuine ideas, powerful musicianship and brilliant vocals…and that it’s ALWAYS going to be worth a listen to find out what he’s up to next. Dreaming In Color is highly rewarding to listen to and at the same time reveals the potential of an artist that is going to continually tap into new veins of his own creativity in effort to make music that gives your mind just as much to think about as it gives your ears something to groove to.
Find out more about Joe Jermano from his official homepage at: http://www.joejermano.com/