Thursday, December 27, 2007

Just Jack - Overtones

(This is my first album review for ProperlyChilled, published Dec. 27, 2007; click the title link or visit to see it on the site)

Just Jack is a moody story teller who vaults from one emotional extreme to another, with a disco-pop trip-hop sound that makes his new release, Overtones, swell with glee, disappointment, and bliss from the lovely and shocking surprises of everyday life. Overtones, Just Jack's second full-length album, is a collection of short stories sung to a soundtrack of underground British trip-hop, dub, disco, and folksy acoustic pop.

North London singer-songwriter Jack Allsopp is Just Jack. Taking root in hip-hop and house, Jack DJ'd for many years until he took his writing passion into his own hand, creating a sound that features his hip-hop DJ skills, English crooning, and acoustic guitars, among other live instruments. Two albums later, RGRecords (of Britain) has incubated Just Jack from house DJ to dance-hall storyteller. Now, his style can be heard here in the U.S. thanks to TVT records.

Overtones' tracks could very well be anecdotes from our own lives. We can dance or lounge to all of them and find inspiration and lessons in the lyrics. The tracks listen well as singles, depending on your mood, but fit together extremely well as an album.

On "Glory Days," Jack introduces his life philosophy on downtempo and fun-loving funk. The lyrics compare Jack's bliss to that of a dog digging up dinosaur bones. The music is inspirational, like many of Overtones's tracks, and might be too strong of an attempt to ride Cloud 9 for some. But, you can't help but grin at Jack's stories and proclamations: "I'm feelin groovy/ Kicking down the cobble stones / And there is music in every sight and every sound/ No need for headphones/ I'll tip my cap to the world/ Even though I don't wear one."

This "no worries" vibe is juxtaposed with wandering Alice in Wonderland jangles and horns on "Lost." This tune tells the story of a lost yuppie who stumbled into a superficial labyrinth. The track is reminiscent of a down-on-his-luck piano man, belting his story in a seedy jazz club with a cigarette burning his lips and a stained collar turned up underneath unshaven jowls. A sad upright bass and electric guitar provide slow jam riffs underneath his woeful tale. His eyes glaze over and we hear "It's been ages since he slept/ Properly, his sleeps now broken by these dreams of extra-marital activity/ Trying to recapture the rapture that he used to get from his material possessions/ And endless retail therapy sessions."

"Symphony of Sirens" and "Disco Friends" are other care-free tracks about people loving, bickering, and enjoying life one song at a time. "No Time" and the underground hit "Starz in their Eyes" remind us of exes and pop-culture misfits whose dreams are crushed by the same Hollywood moguls who made the Beckhams and exploit the Britneys. And "Life Stories" is an ode to YOU – "Forget me, this is all about you/ we're just a siphon the sounds come through."

Throughout the album, the music perfectly matches the mood and tone of the lyrics. Overtones is equal parts "Glory Days" and "Lost." Each song is a keenly observant tale of the mysterious mix of life's challenges and joys. If you are willing to ebb and flow with the emotions and melodies, you'll get a fantastic mix of beautiful, chilled trip-hop and dance-hall disco-pop.

~ Erik Dawson

[On the enhanced CD version you'll find videos for "Starz in Their Eyes", "Writer's Block" and "Glory Days"]

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Xmas - Free Downloads!

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays! In the spirit of giving, this posting lists my favorite sites to get free downloads or stream excellent goes!!

DOWNLOAD: - free downloads of entire albums and songs - song downloads of experimental, trip-hop tunes - download Bitter:Sweet's "Dirty Laundry" - Idyllic downloads from Idyllic albums - subscription service that offers free trial period - search for favorite artists, many of them offer one or two free downloads

STREAM: - excellent mix of chill, dub, trip-hop - balance to relax or move to, your choice - ambient tracks galore - veeeery loungy, focused chill - another great mix of chill, acid jazz, trip-hop, reggae

PODCAST*: (The Propercast - see right sidebar)

*Podcast list from Calmscape ( - visit Calmscape to view descriptions of each podcast.

I thought of doing this post after reading a notice in Properly Chilled's most recent newsletter. They are doing somethin new and cool, pairing a drink recipe with a free downloard. Pretty cool, check out the notice:

New: Monthly Drink Special

Debuting in January is a new feature called the Drink Special. Each month Properly Chilled will feature a new drink recipe and pair it with a complementary, free song download. Keep looking out for the next newsletter for more about this new feature. Tune in to Propercast 8 for a sneak preview of the recipe. If you'd like to get involved with the Drink Special as a music or drink sponsor, or just want to help spread word, get in touch.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Ambient vs. Elevator

a general musing... I'm snowboarding in New Hampshire yesterday, friends and I break for lunch and in the lodge they're playing pretty general ambient music. It could best be described as elevator music, just generic lounge sounds playing over and over and over. I think chill out/ambient is always in danger of being called elevator music because it takes such a subtle, but unique sound to stand out and catch people's attention, while being interesting enough that you enjoy, but not forgettably generic. So off the top of my head, here are some artists I believe DO differntiate from the pack:

- Nightmares on Wax (probably my favorite for ambient)
- Alex Cortiz
- Divasonic (new one for me - just reviewed at ProperlyChilled)
- AIR (earlier albums)
- Alif Tree
- Jazzanova (a bit more, uh, jazzy)
- Caural
- Lemongrass
- Boards of Canada
- Gotan Project

This is a short list, I know i left off artists that do belong - which ones would you add?

ADDED by Chris at Slackline Radio:
-- Global Communication (Tom Middleton project)
-- Bullitnuts (maybe too far over the edge of Ambient, but damn good nonetheless)
-- Jens Buchert (A definite YEAH!)

Even if "over the edge," I'll trust "damn good"!! Gotta check these additions out. Thanks Chris!

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