For many emerging artists, a common practice in making albums is to start out with one that is self-titled. Eponymous releases often aim to define an artist’s stylistic tendencies as well as their public image. This way, the music becomes about the artist themselves and allows them to safely experiment without the pressure of trying to tackle a high-flying concept album on their first go. At its core, Jack Shaffrey’s debut album does just that. It’s Jack, and unapologetically so.
Jack begins with “unfettered intro”. The title is fitting; in the first minute of the track, Jack introduces a handful of instruments, each with their own distinct timbre. Their entrances grow to become freer as the intro progresses.
Following the intro is “lightlynow”, easily one of my favorite tracks on the album. The main motif is established by chopping and looping effects. It’s simple enough to not be distracting and is distinct enough to be memorable. Jack’s vocal duo with himself is a neat effect. The parts don’t line up, nor are they intended to. Where part of him is crooning “she told me it feels so good to be in love”, the other part of him is catching his breath after sighing with bliss.
Another one of my favorites is “leaving”. The opening synth pattern wavers between contentedness and lingering sentimentalism, as reflected in the lyrics that follow. The first few lines convey Jack’s pleasant feelings toward the future: “Sunlit day I’d like to come home / to the place beyond the ridge away where I’m grown. Lay in bed to look at my dreams / a collage of blue and green floats beautifully.” By using simple imagery and warm vocal and bass tones, Jack establishes his feelings on what is to come and evokes a welcoming sense of optimism for the listener. During the brief instrumental break, hints of “come home” and the tail end of “beautifully” float in and out of the texture with ease. After daydreaming about returning home, Jack looks back on his past and raises a question that is never quite answered: “Past is pleasant memories to know / but those days are gone, I wonder what were they for?” Because both lines are sung similarly, it’s not immediately apparent that he’s still dwelling on the past. Upon leaving that question open, one can’t help but yearn for an answer, a conclusion, or a resolution of some sort. At this point, it is clear what the opening dissonances mean as the desire to resolve them becomes mutual.
A lot of Jack explores some deep, untethered emotions as shown on “melancholic,” “whyimsounhappy,” and “fuck.” “melancholic” reminds me of some of Gorillaz’s more recent material — namely “Broken” and other selections from Plastic Beach — whereas “whyimsounhappy” has parallels with Damon Albarn’s solo work on Everyday Robots (“Lonely Press Play“). The track begins with the sound of Jack pressing ‘play’ on a tape player which starts a wonky melodic line that pans from left to right. After letting it repeat itself a few times, the tape player is shut off and an entirely new song starts up. In this composition, Jack’s emotions are raw and unfiltered. He lets his different outbursts and ideas speak for themselves. Though the song developed naturally out of the indecisive starting and stopping of the opening tape loop, Jack suddenly presses ‘stop’, bringing everything to a distraught close.
Jack successfully expresses what it intends to in the best way possible. By exploring different timbres, genres, and production styles, Jack effectively conveys what he means to on his debut album. I enjoyed listening and re-listening to Jack and am looking forward to future projects.
Favorite Track: “leaving”