Wednesday, April 13, 2011


J Minus’ “Devil Music”

WHAT IT IS: The third album from J Minus, a Seattle-based quartet whose sound is nearly impossible to pigeonhole. This Dylan Fant-fronted group shifts uneasily between straight-up ’90s throwback (the delightful, radio-ready “Seasons”) to dark, atmospheric early-a.m. ballads (“No Sleep Tonight”).

WHAT ONE JERK THINKS ABOUT IT: A little piece of advice: If you want to thoroughly enjoy J Minus’ “Devil Music,” don’t look at its artwork. Simply ask a friend to unwrap the disc from its packaging when it arrives in the mail and have them place the offending material in the trashcan before carrying on with your listening experience. Hopefully without forming too much of a solid image in your mind, I’ll share this: Wholly misleading crayon art accompanies this album. Its front cover, for one, is a field scene of a couple skipping along underneath a rainbow — all in crayon, mind you, and looking as if it were etched out by an ambitious gradeschooler. Now, I have nothing against using sloppy crayon drawings for album art if they’re somehow related to kids or sunshine-y days (this approach worked splendidly on the impressive 2000 tribute album “Songs for Summer”), but it just doesn’t work here. I wouldn’t normally waste so much space dissecting an album’s artwork, but I felt like this one’s step into “crayondom” was so hopelessly misguided that at least 85 percent of potential listeners will simply pass on it because of the cover. … OK, my overseers just informed me to A) take a breath and B) get on with the record review. So, here goes: There is nothing inherently groundbreaking about this group or album, but it isn’t without its merits. While J Minus scores big when it is manufacturing highly enjoyable (though light on substance) pop tarts — in particular “When the Lights Go Out” and the aforementioned “Seasons” — its appeal starts to stumble when it moves away from vaguely Toad the Wet Sprocket-inspired territory.

WHAT YOU SHOULD DO ABOUT IT: Head down to the “MP3 buffet.” At best, the songs on “Devil Music” will bring you back to the oh-so-sentimental days of “Dawson’s Creek.” (You know, small towns and figurative butterflies in the stomach.) At worst? Think one of the “American Pie” sequels. Needless to say, you don’t need those bland throwaway tracks weighing down your record collection.

… BUT YOU DON’T HAVE TO TAKE MY WORD FOR IT: Learn more about “Devil Music” at

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