J Minus - Devil Music
2010, J Minus
Seattle quartet J Minus walks the wild edge of alternative music. Not Alternative understand, but an alternative to what we call Alternative. Formed in 2002, Dylan Fant, Trevor Wheetman, Chris Mongillo and Meyer Harrell work within the bounds of solid songwriting, dynamic harmonies and a refusal to tie themselves to one specific sound. You may hear flashes of bands such as Death Cab For Cutie, The Samples or Toad The Wet Sprocket in their sound, but J Minus takes these influences, mixes them with their own inherent talents and creates something new and unique. J Minus dropped their third album, Devil Music over the summer. It may be their best work to date.
Devil Music opens with "Congratulations, You Suck; a catchy tune that asks a troubling paramour to set him free rather than string him along. Buried in the emotional angst of the tune is a great pop arrangement that slowly unfurls as the song progresses. "When The Lights Go Out" is a song of reassurance written for a child who is afraid of the dark. Parents in particular will appreciate J Minus' effort here, a sweet and good-natured tune with an enjoyable melody. "Can I Count On You?" seeks assurance in a meandering pop arrangement. The song is very well written, featuring an off-center, needy protagonist in a needful quest.
J Minus explores dashed expectations on "Who We Were", looking at the hopes and dreams of children and the reality of their adulthood. It's a stark take on how negative thoughts and experiences impact or characters and personalities. Things get maudlin in the middle of Devil Music, with J Minus losing the energy that drove even the darker moments over the album's first few songs. "Swing Low" is the exception, a catchy rock tune with big harmonies in the chorus. This is a tune that sticks with you or recurs in your mind at odd times, and is a bright light in the middle of Devil Music. "While It Lasts" is a melancholic rumination on impermanence that features a solid melody but is a bit of a drag in emotion and energy. "Into The Dark" is tortured pop music that delves into a sense of failure and loss without clear boundaries; a singular effort that is both difficult and rewarding as a songwriter and as a listener. J Minus closes with "Episode 2", which opens in bland musical terms but turns into a vibrant pop song that counters J Minus' almost morose vocal style. It's a request to leap forward into the unknown of tomorrow, a fitting, yet bold end to the album.
J Minus intrigues with Devil Music, a collection that's unbalanced but which contains a few gems along the way. Fans of The Cure and The Smiths will find a lot to like here, but J Minus has enough pop sensibility to appeal to a wider constituency.
Rating: 3 Stars (Out of 5)