Album Reviews

JBM – Not Even In July

(Marchant) UK release date: 11 May 2009

JBM is none other than Canadian Jesse Marchant, a singer-songwriter who has previously only been heard on film soundtracks. Hopefully, Not Even In July will change this state of affairs, as this is a real grower of an album that with the right wind behind its sails could become this year’s For Emma, Forever Ago.

Not Even In July settles into its groove early on with the delicate Years, which mixes strings and acoustic guitar in a manner similar to the instrumental tracks that Nick Drake used on Bryter Layter.

Years segues neatly into Cleo’s Song, the first vocal number on the album. Marchant’s penchant for using echo on his vocal tracks is not a device for masking technical deficiencies. Instead, he uses it to add an extra layer of atmosphere to his songs, and this is fully realised here on an early standout track. It is easy to draw parallels to Jos� Gonz�lez and the song does eerily evoke Heartbeats.

Not Even In July is an album that barely strays out of its default territory, gentle acoustic indie folk that serves as a backdrop to Marchant’s rich baritone. Ambitions & War is one of the few mid-tempo numbers on the album but the shuffling melody more than matches the vaguely anti-war rhetoric of the lyric.

July On The Sound is another stand-out track, its sinister minor key melody guiding a lyric that speaks eloquently of despair and regret while retaining an air of mystery.

Like any modern singer-songwriter Marchant utilises a diverse range of musical sources in the pursuit of a good song. Friends For Fireworks has a shuffling rhythm section that draws on electronica, or more accurately the trip-hop of Portishead and Massive Attack. It’s oddly endearing and successful.

Marchant can also pull off straightforward singer-songwriter material, as Going Back Home proves with its pinpoint guitar/string arrangement framing the most affecting vocal on the album, one that seeks to give the subject of the song ‘the comfort that you seek’.

In A Different Time and From Me To You And You To Me, meanwhile, aim for Neil Young/Bob Dylan territory and don’t sound out of place. Red October, meanwhile, is a curio, drifting into ambient mode with some beautiful slide guitar adding a classy touch to proceedings.

Swallowing Daggers end the album on a high, or as much of a high as a song concerning a suicidal friend can offer. Marchant’s delivery provides the requisite humanity that the song needs, however, bringing the album to a close on a note of hope.

The sad thing is this reviewer is left searching for a back story to match Bon Iver in order to promote this album. Not Even In July easily equals For Emma, Forever Ago in terms of songwriting and performance, but you can’t help feeling the non-descript Jesse Marchant needs a media tag line to help him rise above the crowd.

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JBM – Not Even In July