Thursday, September 2, 2010

Jukebox the Ghost - Everything Under the Sun

I don't know where to begin, so I guess the beginning is the best place to start.

I got my preorder of Jukebox the Ghost's new album, Everything Under the Sun, in the mail yesterday. I've listened to nothing else since.

Part of it is that these are songs I have been in love with for over a year and haven't been able to listen to outside of a live show. It is so very, very frustrating to love a song but not be able to buy it anywhere. Unreleased music is just... unreleased. So of the 12 tracks on the album, I had been anxiously, conciously awaiting four of them. But it turns out I know more of them, turns out I've heard almost all of them. The only thing that makes "new" music better is when you've heard that new music before, and you already have an emotion attached to it. I'm going to go track by track, because I love it so much, but it's still so Jukebox all over. Tommy Seigel is still writing songs about the apocalypse and Ben Thornewill is still writing songs about love and somehow the two form this amazing cohesive unit (and recent interviews attribute this to Jesse Kristin's influence and editing).

Schizophrenia is, well, schizophrenic. They performed it live on David Letterman last night, and I think hearing it is the only way to appreciate its beautiful oscillation.

Half Crazy gets stuck in my head all the time and I love that I now have a recorded version of it. This is a song written by Seigel, and though it's not about the apocalypse and though it's written like an upbeat dance song, it's about disintegrating in your room and going crazy. And I love it.

Empire is another one I've been listening to in my head for a while. Classic piano driven Jukebox song about love. "I've got my knives and my heart up my sleeves."

Summer Sun is one that I didn't think I'd recognize, but I did. I can't accurately describe how the song fits together in two parts, the classic Jukebox sounding part and the more mature Jukebox second half. The first uses onomatopoeia of a beating heart while the second is a more searching, reaching, almost rock vibe. Almost.

I heard Mistletoe at the second live show of theirs I saw, back in 2008. It was on their myspace for a while and then disappeared, and it was missed. It's bouncy but about a serial heartbreaker. And it's very, very pretty.

The Sun is another one I didn't expect to recognize. Seigel is back to the apocalypse and questioning God, both constant themes for him. The lyrics are dark and almost angry, but the music is so upbeat and beautiful that you want to dance to lines like "big bags of blood, or by inference big bags of water, stitched tightly at the seams like packaging are hurtling through busy city streets" and "what if it's all just a black abyss." One of the best things about JTG is their ability to back dark lines with joyous music and connect the two seamlessly.

So Let Us Create is my least favorite song on the album. I think it's because Thornewill's voice sounds distorted in the chorus, like it's been run through a vocoder. There's something unsettling about it. It's wrong.

Carrying hit me out of nowhere. This is one I've heard live but didn't remember until I was a few lines in. It's again super peppy music, but cowritten by Thornewill and Seigel, meaning it's half a love song and half a depressing question of God. And one of the lines in the song is a slight rearrangement of a self realization I had almost seven months ago, a line I dug up in my journal because it unnerved me so much that someone else had put it into poetic words. I love when music makes me feel, and I love it more when it can put into words or sounds something I've been feeling already but couldn't properly voice.

Here we hit an interlude, a reprise of The Sun, before we launch into The Stars, this album's "Where are all the Scientists Now?." This is Seigel's giant apocalypse plot, a narrative about a giant wave overtaking a city and questioning our part in the end, and what one would do in the face of imminent destruction. It's good, and it reminds me why I love his voice and his writing style. I feel like their "singles," as much as a indie band can have singles, have all been Thornewill's songs, and I wonder if maybe that's a little unfair. Don't get me wrong, Thornewill's writing and piano just about tear my heart out, but Seigel's music is this whole other side of the band that deserves just as much of a spotlight.

The Popular Thing. It is utterly impossible for me to listen to this song without some sort of ridiculous dancing involved. The lyrics are scathing, really, condemning people moving out west and getting tattoos and having sex just because everybody else is doing it, but the music is so god damned peppy that you've just gotta dance. It's their poppiest sounding song, but that is beyond appropriate. It's all hand claps and bright piano keys and condemnation. I'm in love.

Nobody sounds more like Thornewill's solo music than a general Jukebox song. I think I've effused over his solo stuff enough here before, so I'll refrain. But I've been falling asleep to music lately, picking a CD and lying upside down on my bed until I start to fade in and out of dreams. This was obviously last night's album choice, and this is the perfect song to end an album, the perfect song to end a day, the perfect song to fall asleep to.

Everything Under the Sun gets five ghosts out of five. It's happy and gorgeous and perfect. That's all you need.

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