Nate Jacobucci – Despair In A Cup – Single Review
I am very much starting to think that Nate Jacobucci makes as much music as I listen to, and that’s sayin’ something! You know him, you love him…our zany Canadian friend from the east side…where is he based out of again…Manitoba, right? Winnipeg? Yeah! That’s it. Good lord that means the guy is probably already buried in snow by this point…and it seems we’ve reached that point in the day where I’m once again glad I moved back home to the west side in beautiful British Columbia where it’s actually in the PLUS-degrees today – JEALOUS MUCH, Mr. Jacobucci? I betcha he makes all this music just to stay warm! Ohhh you’d truly have to be Canadian to understand all this…lemme get back on track here…
Whether you know the man from his solo work, or you know him from the stuff he’s been creating in bands like Butterfist Funhouse and Campfire Sigh – like I was telling ya, Nate makes an extraordinary amount of music for one dude. So much that you’d think there were at least five Nate Jacobuccis! In my world, that pretty much makes ya superhuman – he’s got a work ethic even I look up to & certainly admire. And the FACT that his music is as good as it is? That’s the cherry on top y’all – Nate’s a rad guy. Not only have I enjoyed his tunes on several levels since I started listening to him last year, but I’d tell ya he’s easily written one of the most memorable I’ve heard in the past five for sure – I can often be found singing his song “Bones” around the house whether it’s playing or not…it’s forever lodged in my noggin.
So heck ya – sign me up for some Despair In A Cup, I’m thirsty for more Nate Jacobucci & you should be too. Now that I’m fairly familiar with the variety of different vibes this guy creates and what I tend to like & love a lot more than when I first starting listening to his music, I’m practically an aficionado! And that’s how I knew I’d dig “There Is A Shadow” pretty much right from the start…listening to how the verses came out, that’s the Nate I love right there. Chorus-wise…hmm…I was probably a bit more take it or leave it in comparison to how attached I quickly grew to the verses, but I remain impressed with the effort regardless – this dude’s a spectacular musician with such a remarkable, well-rounded skillset. We’ll get to more on this by the end of the review…I’m saving my ultimate comparison to Nate for the very end, but make no mistake, the similarities in sound and strangeness start right here on “There Is A Shadow.” Nate has a real knack for doing things differently, and I’m always here for it…his material has always shown such an impressive knowledge of music’s history, and he’s one of those artists that could easily decide to rock a song in just about any kind of style – that’s the kind of supreme skill he has. True to form, the execution of “There Is A Shadow” is audibly perfect – the most you’ll find me conceding to ya is that this lineup of songs on Despair In A Cup reveals quite a few spectacular gems as it plays on, and that I eventually found a whole bunch more that I felt were even stronger than this beginning, but there’s no doubt about this first track being more than enough to get people excited to listen to the rest.
As “Shameless Night” started out with the ol’ steel guitar (courtesy of Jeremy Rusu), I was nearly petrified…for a moment there, I was fairly sure that Nate was gonna head straight into Country music y’all…but he avoids that. Instead, he’s actually tapped into something quite inspired on a melodic level – it’s like a Xanax-induced dream…still kind of Alt-Country in that way indie bands like Pavement tend to experiment with the genre…and the chorus of this song, is straight-up five-star outstanding. Lots of credits on this cut, and lots of credit is due to each guest-star making this as special as this song becomes – in addition to Jeremy, you’ll find Rimma Strings on the violin & viola, Nick Schellenberg in the backing vocals with Grant Prosser, and Cody Rey Valentonis on the bass – all of these players deserve a massive high-five for their incredible contributions to this song. I really wasn’t sure how this song was gonna go at first…I felt like it was gonna get all kinds of sleepy and even kind of normal somehow – but I should have known better…Nate’s anything but typical, and as “Shameless Night” progressed, I couldn’t help but marvel at how mesmerizing this melody became. I love how the backing vocals come in to support Nate’s lead…I love the gentleness of the verses and that 50s-esque vibe he draws on there, and how the song shifts so brilliantly into the glimmer and gentle melodic spark of the misery in the chorus.
If I’m thinking instant, unobjectionable appeal however…I’m thinking the single is probably “Reaper Be Gone.” Not only are the hooks amazing, but you’ve also got Micah Braun kicking ass on the bass, Nate’s brilliant organ sound, and a completely stellar vocal performance from the main man as well. There is more to this song than I’m seeing listed in the credits, but you’ll just have to take my word for it for now until you have a listen to it for yourself – “Reaper Be Gone” is a full-on irresistible JAM. It’s lively, it’s danceable, it’s got the juice y’all…these hooks are bound to connect to one & all who listen and I’d think it’d be a great choice as a gateway single to draw people into listening to the rest of Despair In A Cup. I really like the collective pool of talent that Nate is able to pull from when he wants to make music – not only is the guy talented at writing, singing, playing and all that – but he’s got an incredible ear for truly understanding who is going to be the right person for whatever song he’s working on. For example, Cody was freakin’ perfect for “Shameless Night” every bit as much as Micah is crucial to “Reaper Be Gone” – totally different players, different styles, and essentially, the same result in the end – perfection for the moment they’re involved in. The trumpet, and organ, and whole vibe of “Reaper Be Gone” is straight-up awesome though…I’d be shocked to find out anyone out there can somehow resist this song.
Gonna hand the unsung hero award to “(Lay Down) Heather” I think. I feel like, no matter how much I already like this song – and I do like it, I like it a lot – I still feel like I’m gonna like it even more as time marches on and I have a chance to absorb this gem in-full over years & years of listening. In fact, I can already attest to the fact that its magic is continually workin’ on me…because the more I’ve listened, the more I’ve become convinced this cut could very well be THE gem of the entire record – it’s one heck of a piece of songwriting, and Nate should be seriously proud of it. Much like “Shameless Night” somewhat explored, it’s got this Pop-meets-Alt-Country type vibe at the core…kind of like how the band Cracker would launch into a slow jam every so often on their albums and come out with a dusty & beautiful tune that you’d never expect. I mean…we kind of expect it from Nate…but the effect of its impact is still similar, and just as welcome. Also impressive, is how Jacobucci has such a remarkable way of making some fairly arguably miserable themes and ideas so inviting and welcoming to listen to – if you’re listening to the lyricism he comes up with, it’s not like the man creates the happiest songs you’re ever going to hear – but just like you want in a great songwriter, he has an uncanny grip on what makes contrast truly work. As a result, we end up with songs like “(Lay Down) Heather” that are layered with different levels of emotion and thought-provoking moments that could make you smile as easily as it could make you cry…Nate writes the kind of songs that morph along with the moods you swing into.
“Haunted Animatronics” – OBVIOUSLY I LOVE THIS – Nate Jacobucci, quit sonically pandering to my ears! I’m kidding, I’m kidding…about the pandering, not about loving this instrumental oddity, which I do. To me, this is the kind of quirky-ass cut that was like experiencing something like…ohhhhh what was that record again…it was…Faith No More…something…hmmm…lemme look this up so I can sound smart here…no wait – I’ve got it – it was Songs To Make Love To. Have I made that comment before in listening to Nate’s music? Someone fact-check me…I feel like I have. But like, if you listen to that record, you’ll find that, if you’re familiar with the band, practically everything came out of the blue. “Haunted Animatronics” is a lot livelier than their take on “Midnight Cowboy” was, but in the weird associations I make in my head, it’s a similar fit into this record from Nate. Just that one instrumental section of blissful weirdness, that seems to give the record the most wonderful twist as a result – and I’m here for it. Personally, I just love the fact that he’ll include something like “Haunted Animatronics” on a record like Despair In A Cup…it still somehow manages to fit and feel cohesive as we listen to it, but if you were to look at it on paper, you’d probably think it would make no sense at all to include. Genius!
“Heavy Blue” has got some stellar aspects to it in Nate’s like, part-The Beatles/part-Strawberry Alarm Clock type of way. There are a couple of cuts on this record that I’d consider to be ‘classic Nate’ after having had as much experience listening to his music as I’ve got at this stage in the game – and “Heavy Blue” is one of’em. Is it Strawberry Alarm Clock I’m reaching for? It’s probably Donovan. There needs to be that distinct aspect of strangeness to the Pop/Rock vibe…so Strawberry Alarm Clock is probably a bit too straightforward…let’s change that to Donovan then. Obviously I could go back and make a bunch of changes to what I’ve written, but ain’t it more entertaining to read me floundering in real-time? Sure it is! Plus, at least three-quarters of you youngins out there probably haven’t got a clue of who I’m talking about anyhow…but Nate does – I’ve practically guarantee it. Gonna have to pin this guy down for an interview one day and pick his brain…maybe even bust out one of our video-interviews…I feel like he’d be perfect to take that project on, if he could pull himself away from making his next record that is. Because I’m sure he’s already well on his way to whatever’s next…this dude eats, sleeps, and breathes music. Anyhow. I’m off on a tangent here – “Heavy Blue” is a great tune! It flies by quickly at just over the two-minute mark, but from the lead vocals to the backing vocals, verse to chorus, it manages to hit all the key elements in a short timeframe & gives you one of the raddest synth solos you’ll hear all year.
Of all the cuts on this record that are probably going to be the biggest obstacles to the listeners out there, it’s likely gonna be “Betrayal.” Still a decent tune by any measure of course – it’s freakin’ Nate Jacobucci y’all, what else could you expect? Just a different energy and a heavier shroud that casts a fairly decent sized shadow over this song is all…for some out there, it’ll be their favorite on the record and it’ll be the rest of the cuts that are a distant second, you know what I mean? We all like what we like and love what we love, as I always say. The main hooks of the chorus are pretty strong, and in my opinion, get even stronger with the repetition in the mid-section of this song…but yeah…it’s got the whole push/pull thing & mid-tempo dealio goin’ on, which is usually somewhat of a struggle for the masses out there listening. I mean…I’ll put it to ya this way – I’ve said a million times on these pages of ours that a moment can make a song, and the strongest moments of “Betrayal” should more than keep you listening, as they did with me. He explores a completely desolate & drained energy as the song begins…I suppose that’s what I’m trying to say – it’s tough for me to imagine people jumping up and down about it and being like “YAY! I CAN FEEL THE ENERGY DRAINING RIGHT OUT OF MY SOUL AND MY LIFEFORCE DISAPPEARING AS I LISTEN!” No joke thought – to me, the middle of this song, is undeniably addictive…between like, 2:45-3:40-ish…somewhere around there, Nate works the magic of repetition, and it makes all the difference in the world to this song if you ask me…I could never get enough of it. I like the heights of the finale that it reaches, and the low-key way it finishes off too…lots of positives.
Case in-point though, I think there are actually more significant highlights in “Betrayal” than you’ll find in the hooks of “Nerves” overall, but I’d probably side with “Nerves” being a more complete & balanced tune – make sense? I don’t know that “Nerves” really displays that one outstanding & memorable aspect to it in the writing or in what we hear as a traditional hook, but the musicianship itself is nothing short of incredible & displays some of my favorite creativity from Nate in the layers of instrumentation. As a song, it’s a lot reliant on the word “Nerves” taking the weight as the main hook…and I ain’t saying that won’t grow on me a little as time goes on…it will, enough…but yeah – it’s actually the second-half of this cut that intrigues me the most, where it’s instrumentally driven. I have a few scattered moments with Nate’s music here & there where I’m like, “DO THAT MORE AND FOR LONGER AND YES PLEASE” – and the ending of “Nerves” is a perfect example of that. I don’t know how much this guy gets out there live on stage, but if he’s taking a track like this one out there, I’d highly recommend putting this at the end of the set, right before the encore, and blowing the roof off the place with an expanded freakout session taking place by drawing out the instrumental part of this song even more than we hear here.
“Grief Song” is probably one of those cuts that, at this point, I’d pretty much consider to be ‘classic’ Nate Jacobucci as well…more-so than even “Heavy Blue” from before – this is what musicians would call ‘right in the pocket.’ It’s a style and sound that he’s got nailed down perfectly…and the even better news, is that if it ain’t Ben Folds doing it, it’s probably Nate. There’s not a whole lot out there right now that really IS like Jacobucci when it comes right down to it – if you scour your parents old records, you’ll find lots in common with a whole bunch of stuff from The Beatles to Supertramp & back again, but in the present day, he’s got the opportunity to rock his type of sound fairly unopposed. These next two songs deal directly with why it’s “so hard to say goodbye” – which is a very real and relatable subject to tackle, and not always one you’re going to find people as willing to take in with such an upbeat demeanor like Nate does here. Similar to how he explored both “Bones” and “Exhumed And Groomed” on the O-Bone album from last year, “Grief Song” and “Everybody Dies/Shameless Link” are tied together thematically and melodically. LOVE the solos in “Grief Song” and the instrumentation…all-in-all, I think it’s just a sound that Nate is able to perfectly bring to life, which is ironic in this particular scenario, but you get what I mean…he’s got an incredible grip on the sincerity & sweetness of Pop/Rock when he wants to be in that gear. Cody lays out another exceptional performance on the bass in this tune as well – I highly suspect you’ll never find me complaining about the musicianship on a Nate Jacobucci record. LISTEN to that guitar solo from Grant Prosser too will ya? Dude’s on a whole other level in how perfect that is and how well-suited it is for the music you’ll hear on “Grief Song.” Nate’s records run DEEP to y’all…like, six-feet deep quite often thematically, but quality-wise, you’ll never find anything Nate does slackin’ no matter how far you are into a lineup of songs. “Everybody Dies/Shameless Link” directly flows in from “Grief Song” right beforehand, and if you’re listening closely to the lyrics, you’ll understand why that is. The upbeat nature of “Everybody Dies/Shameless Link” is one of the raddest surprises you’ll find on your playlists this year…it’s kind of like taking the worst of a situation and directly deciding to make the best of it, no matter how hard that might be. “Everybody Dies/Shameless Link” actually reminds me a lot of what we heard on the Rasmus Fynbo album called The Azure Sea from last year as well – check it out.
I’ve made several comparisons to Nate’s music throughout this review, but there’s still one that I haven’t mentioned…one that likely only musicians would really get or understand – and that’s Weird Al. Jacobucci’s got that similar potential – the massive, worldwide potential. No carbon copy by any stretch of the imagination, it’s more of a composition/talent comparison…the dedication to the craft/natural talent he’s got…and yeah, quite often the vocal tones reach a point where a comparison would be justified too. Anyhow. Just thought I’d mention that…for some reason, I feel like Nate’s the exact kind of guy that will get why I bring that up, and recognize that for the compliment it’s intended to be. I think the main difference would clearly be the humor overall…Nate doesn’t blur the lines in that regard too much, though he can definitely dip into the occasional moment that’ll make ya smile. For the most part, he’s straightforward and sincere in the way he writes – and in that respect, “Go Where Your Heart Takes You” is a stellar example to point to, and a perfect conclusion to this record. “As long as you find happiness, that’s all that matters to me” is such a beautiful line…very heartfelt and real – you FEEL it when he sings it, and that’s a wonderful thing to accomplish. Just like he explores in “Grief Song” – there are many ways that we say goodbye to the people we love…they’re not always completely final, sometimes we’re simply sending people off to do what they want to do, and sadly, we can’t always follow. I went through a similar scenario not too long ago where I said goodbye to my best friend of like, the past twenty years…the dude’s still alive and well as far as I know, but I couldn’t be a part of the next chapter of his life in a functional way that contributed anything positive to it…so instead, I chose to let go, and basically told him to “Go Where Your Heart Takes You.” Sometimes it’s for the best, no matter how much it might hurt…or how hard it can be to see it as the right decision for something bigger than we are. So heck yeah…like much of the music we listen to, the more we can personalize it & internalize it & relate to what we’re listening to, in the right setting, songs we love can practically devastate and destroy us in the best of ways…I felt like I really connected to “Go Where Your Heart Takes You” and was able to ‘go there’ as I listened. It’s a genuinely beautiful moment, and a spectacularly well-written finale to Despair In A Cup…I’m tellin’ ya folks…Nate Jacobucci’s got a whole lotta talent for this music makin’ thing and continually confirms he’s heading in the right direction with his career with every new release.
Find out more about Nate Jacobucci from his official page at Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100063504185912
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