4 out of 5
Label: Sargent House
Produced by: Kevin Ratterman, Jim Marlowe (recorded by)
With the Jaye Jayle persona taking shape as an outlet for Young Widows’ Evan Patterson’s solo songs, it makes sense that Jayle’s sound would be quite informed by the band, and also center on themes fitting for a touring musician’s life. With a trip to New Mexico and a visit to an ex-girlfriend, Patterson found inspiration to gather Jayle’s scattered 7″ recordings and shape them up into an album – new material, some re-recorded – and get a backing band together to flesh the sound out. The YW structure is thus still very much there, but the Jayle identity also forms: more narrative, contemplative-style lyrics; the Americana backing that’d lurked on Widows’ last couple albums taking forefront. The sound is minimal but experimental, venturing into some brighter, dark pop at points, but tempering some of Patterson’s hardcore band leanings into more choice, punctuated uses of distortion and synth. Neal Argabright’s percussion is succinctly controlled; supportive of Patterson’s paced approach but also used in the same sudden heartbeat breakout that will be familiar to YW fans, meaning that, yes, this album is an easy transition – something of an ideal breather between repeat listens of the heavy thump of, say, Easy Pain.
Patterson definitely put thought into what to select to present as a first legit album, and as such, this stuff hangs together very well, starting bleak and internal with Hanging Mirror and then giving us some blasts of noise on House Cricks and The Beast Keeps Cool, before bringing more of a shimmery sound as the focus with Sugar Ran Wild. The subject matter, as mentioned, is somewhat familiar dude-on-tour stuff – loneliness; breakups – but Patterson hangs on to the sense of obliqueness and tonal mystery from Widows, which (to me) gives it some weight. That said, the themes do feel somewhat limited – by the time Miss Paranoia swings around on track 7, though it’s a great track, it feels like we’ve heard its gist already – and I don’t know that the album exactly escapes feeling like a set of singles, though they do flow together well. But it is deserving of an album; it “justifies” Patterson’s use of a nom de plume by morphing into something that does sound like a full band sound, and not a side project, functioning as an excellent addition to a Young Widows catalogue, or perhaps as an intro to that world for someone more drawn in by the alterna-folk leanings of Jayle.