Shagpile – Outside In – Album Review
Well now! I suppose a “Happy Anniversary” or sorts, is due to all involved today…
When we first started reviewing independent albums on the site, we were led to a tiny-two piece band way over in the UK called We Steal Flyers, and we reviewed their album Sidecars & Sideshows as we broke new ground of our own alongside this excellent duo. And now after nearly a year has gone by, we get to experience another side of that band…errr…well, to be specific – one side of We Steal Flyers. Jason Vare, aka “Shaggy” has come back to our site, in a new solo project called Shagpile with a debut album called Outside In – and we couldn’t be happier to have this gifted singer/songwriter find his way to our pages once again.
Now…I’d say that it’d be safe to tell fans of We Steal Flyers that they’ll certainly love what Jason has done here on Shagpile’s debut album. The music is the beautifully toned and melodic mix you’ve come to know from him in WSF, but this album really goes the extra length in highlighting just what an important and integral part of the songwriting he is both in his band and in this new solo effort. For fans of great storytelling in song, for those that like melody found in acts like Iron & Wine or David Gray – this new album, Outside In, is definitely made for you.
I’m a huge fan of genuine emotion in music – and I’m no dummy either. Authenticity has been packaged and sold in the music industry for years and it can be tough to cut through all the bullshit we are served with daily. I like it when music doesn’t sound forced. I like music best…when it’s as REAL as this album is.
There is a fantastic quality in Vare’s voice that is completely addicting. It’s not just the moments when his UK accent breaks through, no, it’s not that simple – this is a man that understands melody. I think what I love most…that quality that I’m absolutely loving over here…are those tiny moments where he breaks slightly…or drifts away into the music. Check out the Shagpile track “In The Morning” and you’ll get exactly what I mean. On this track he attacks those vocals with powerful and trembling emotion…like…it almost sounds like these words meant so much to him that even recording them out loud nearly put him into tears. Followed up by the isolated but hopeful-sounding “Smiles From The Dead,” I’m nearly in tears myself. Vare should be incredibly proud of the beautiful recordings captured on Outside In, and the album itself should serve as a standard to the singer/songwriters out there; this is how you do it right.
Lyrically he’s writing from the inside-out to bring you from the Outside In. Each track feels like he’s laying his soul’s-worth on the line; “You” and “Storytime” come along early in the album in real highlights. Musically, this guy is always 100% spot on as well; a truly gifted and incredible acoustic-guitar player. And it takes that kind of player to be able to make songs like “My Zombies” work! I’m mean – this is acoustically driven music! How in the hell did a zombie-reference get in here? You’ll hear what I’m saying though – this track not only works, it’s a bloody-fantastic tune.
I’ll fully admit however, that when the tempo even picks up slightly…I’m almost waiting for him to drop it out and go slow again. It’s not that tracks like “White Devil” or “My Zombies” will let you down – they won’t at all, and the album truly needs that diversity he’s planned into the flow to make the dynamics work as well as they truly do. It’s just that Vare does SLOW so damn WELL! Each example of him bringing it to a minimal place on tracks like “You” or “In The Morning,” show the real songwriter that exists inside him. As the album closes on the epic “4am Lullacry” – it would take a lot to convince me otherwise…when this guy slows his music down, the world slows down with it…and it should. It should stop completely…just for a moment, pause, think…and listen.
I’d go as far as saying you simply won’t find real emotions more genuinely recorded than you will on this album. Vare has put his heart & soul into the songs on this Shagpile record, a common trait in all of the music he makes, which is something we now know ourselves. Quiet, beautiful & acoustic doesn’t mean that music like this shouldn’t be out there making more noise all over the world, and it’s always my hope that truly fantastic songwriters like Jason Vare get recognized for their efforts by the masses one day.
There’s a really talented artist here, everything I’ve heard from his band to this solo effort has shown a commitment and dedication to beautiful songwriting beyond compare. If he stays on this path and continues forward strong with this same dedication and heart in his music, no matter which project he chooses will have a massive chance of becoming known worldwide. And each time the track “You” comes on…I get chills just realizing I could very well be listening to one of the most recognizable voices of our musical future to come. Beautiful. This album…is purely beautiful.
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