Review: Henry Jamison – The Wilds

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Intriguing.

The Wilds is the new Wonderland. Worth a trip down the rabbit hole of Jamison's mind.

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As a descendant of George Frederick Root (author of American Civil war classic ‘Battle Cry of Freedom’), the great question of Jamison’s debut album was if he would embrace the style of his lyrical forebears, or shun them entirely. He settles for a decent in between, noting the ‘sundry and immense’ intricacies of the world in one track (‘No One Told Me’), and the joys of ‘blasting’ a Lil’ Wayne song in another (‘Varsity’). Crucially, although not without missing the mark at times, Jamison manages to be original and elusive enough in his efforts that his album succeeds in being what so many debuts are not: interesting.

Atmospheric is one way to describe each track, confused is another (see: ‘The Rains’). It is the former, however, which normally wins out, starting in choral heavy opener ‘Bright and Future’. As a tone setter, the track does beautifully, featuring everything from acoustic fingerpicking to bird sounds in a manner which would make Bon Iver proud. Formula wise, then, “find a cabin in the woods and record acoustic confessionals” is a playbook happily employed by Jamison, and yet stamped with enough originality to resist the comparison going too far. In title track ‘The Wilds’, Jamison reaches for experimental, weaving in drops and builds that jar the listener just enough to hold their interest that the sometimes over complex verses can be, for now, overlooked. When Jamison croons that ‘the wilds are in me’, we believe him. Indeed, at the album’s best, Jamison’s lyrics are intimate, warm, and purposeful, soaking up light into his lining in ‘The Jacket’, or under the stars as Hermes and Aphrodite in ‘Sunlit Juice’. Indeed, sometimes Jamison’s real flaw is laying down a beautiful groundwork and then leaving it underdeveloped (‘The Jacket’), or else leaving the build up too long, so that when the last thirty seconds of the track is finally going somewhere, it comes all too late (‘Dallas Love Field’).

The gems, however, and the album’s real charm, comes when Jamison holds his focus. As much as I doubt ‘Real Peach’ is the nicest compliment anyone can receive, the track itself is undoubtedly the marketable winner of the album’s collection. Noting that if ‘all is fair in love and war’ then ‘what are we fighting for?’, Jamison wisely leaves the track’s subject unnamed (fruit metaphors aside) and instead doubles down on crafting a controlled track that upon (to this reviewer’s relief) reaching its end without any abrupt falsetto bursts or obscure lyricism, results in a definite win for Jamison’s talent.

It is a sign, then, that while the latter half of the album descends a little too far into aforementioned confusion, when Jamison emerges he will undoubtedly have carved a unique, even brave place of his own.

The Wilds is out October 27th via Akira Records

 

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Third year English and History student that will forever defend autumn as the best season.

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