New Music – Jared Bill ‘Mystery Man’ Album Review

Playfully poetic and powerful, this is music that doesn’t take itself too seriously and in doing so leaves a serious impact. The bizarre and barmy bardic storytelling effortlessly fuses with the oozing juices of the classical country Americana at its heart and creates tracks filled with humour, character and life.

The album begins with ‘The Jared Bill Pt. 2‘ a sequel song, and an introduction to the wry-smile, wordplay, and impish comedic leaning behind the music. This isn’t a stand up comedy in song; it isn’t a failed comedian furthering a career by picking up a guitar to tell jokes. It is more subtle and surreal, more in line with a court jester or fool, each song tells an epic tale, with just enough humour in it to keep the listener listening.

The music behind each song is the obvious focus and the overall sound has been paid keen attention in both its construction and production which makes each track a genuine joy to listen to. The passion and talent on display strumming the strings and structuring the songs is evident and evocative. It is a beautiful backdrop for the theatrical and tantalizing tales to act themselves out upon.

Next up is track 2 ‘Turkey Baby‘ which is a personal favourite. Jared Bill‘s voice is at it’s best on this track, it fits right in the sweet spot and lets that gravelly and gritty growl perfect itself into a purr. The track itself is possibly the most absurd and awe-inspiring on the album, a simple and straight forward song about how the titular baby (who turns out to be the singer himself)… smells like a tasty turkey dinner. In every sense of the word, this is truly deviant and delicious songwriting and we cannot wait to tuck into some more.

And we don’t have to wait long for another taste, as the next song on the album ‘Corduroy Showdown‘ continues on in much the same vein. This track instantly slaps with a cowboy classic energy that summons the spirit of both Johnny Cash and Mitch Hedberg to turn a side-splitting one-liner joke, into a fleshed out fantastically funny ode. The chorus and verses are no joke though, and they hook themselves into the listeners head ensuring you’ll be singing along by the second listen. Massive props to the Wilhelm scream hidden in the mix of the track deployed at the perfect moment in the narrative.

Now if you told me that I would be listening to a country musician doing an Indian accent in a song this year, I would have recoiled in horror and apprehension. However the swollen and spicy tongue-in-cheek nature of ‘Vindaloo’ shows an obvious love and appreciation of the culture and cuisine. The Carnatic elements woven into the song’s structure and sound make it stand out on the album and honestly the two musical traditions blend beautifully well.

The Man With No Middle Name‘ falls a little flat when compared to the rest of the album; it may be that the joke is missing the mark due to us missing some context or maybe the narrative doesn’t quite give us the whole story. This track is also a good example where the vocals sound like they are struggling a little to reach a range outside of their wheelhouse, we applaud the range, and the exploration, but prefer the cool, easy, salt-of-the-earth grit that came before, every album has songs that sing to a sort of soul with different resonance, this one just wasn’t for us.

If the track before felt like a bit of a miss, then ‘Corgi On The 2nd Floor‘ is a bullseye hit straight through the heart. It starts out as a shoegaze serenade with all the effortless cool of bands like Jeff The Brotherhood or Kurt Vile, as the kaleidoscopic psychedelia of the first verse fades Jared Bill returns us to the crazy cowboy call of the chorus. This is such a mad and magical blending of genre, sound, and songwriting techniques and it has to be the standout track on the album for us. Lyrically its hysterically funny and beautifully bizarre, musically it is inventive and interesting, and all this is served up with a catchy chorus and verses that hook into your flesh.

Avoid Ferries‘ is a step toward a more straight-shooting and serious attempt at that classic country sound but let’s be clear, it is still riding off into the sunset on a wonkey legged horse and flashing you a cheeky wink as it goes. The female voice on the chorus refrain is sugary and sublimely soft, it balances beautifully when bouncing off of the rough, gruff, and tough leaning of Jared Bill‘s vocals. ‘Avoid Ferries‘ is an honest delight, you cannot help but crack a smile as you sink your teeth into this silly and sweet little ditty.

Tabs And Slots‘ is an epic ballad in the style of Johnny Cash or Chris De Burgh, it is emotive and evocative, with a monstrous backbone curved along its juddering shuddering riffs. It does an excellent job of world building and tells a full and fleshed out story that draws some creative parallels to sketch out the moral of its fable. At times it feels a little too dense, and the syllables spill over from line to line, and the chorus or repeated central refrain feels a little too stuttered, but overall it’s an excellent example of just what a spellbinding storyteller Jared Bill truly is.

The tail end of the album shows off the more serious side of Jared Bill‘s songwriting and ‘The Girl In The Dakine Sweatshirt‘ continues that theme. It is a ballad, but in keeping with the rest of the album, is still a bit barmy and bizarre. “She has an aura like the northern lights, you can only see her when the stars align,” lines like this set the spooky and surreal story of the song, its a sumptuous and silky smooth serenade that is well worthy of a repeat listen or two. Some of the lines are powerfully poetic in this one.

We conclude with ‘Thompson Speedway‘ which is the most vulnerable on the album and is very capable of tickling out a tear or two. This is Jared Bill at his most honest and heartfelt and he holds nothing back, dying his white cuffed sleeves a crimson shade of red as he paints a vivid picture of his childhood memories and the love he has for his father. Every one can relate to the emotive energy of the track, and the listener can keenly feel the raw crack and crumble of the vocals in the chorus.

This is a new breed of country, and it is ice-cold all American IPA which makes a refreshing change from the luke-warm piss water they have been serving up for too long now. Who wants to hear another homophobe sing a strangely homoerotic ballad to the working class man swigging beer, in his blue denim, out the back of his beaten up pick up truck, when instead you could have a song about the cute little interdimensional corgi on the second floor?

‘Mystery Man’ is a masterclass in fun and the fantastic. The songwriting is cuttingly clever and shows off a songcraft in instrumentation and lyrical ability that puts most of the much more “serious” musicians to shame. It plays with music with the curiosity and creativity of a child at play, allowing each song to follow its flow into other genres or sounds, and retains that sense of wonderment, joy, and humour.

This review was made possible by SubmitHub.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.