Thursday, January 29, 2009

Luke Jackson -- ...And Then Some

Luke Jackson -- ...And Then Some (Popsicle)

This album starts out with the sunny and optimistic “Come Tomorrow”. This is a lush British jangle rocker. If you like Captain Wilberforce, Cosmic Rough Riders or The General Store (or better yet, you like all of the aforementioned), you may have a new favorite artist. The sweet guitar fills, the cascading harmonies, Jackson’s happy as heck vocals -- it’s all here, a complete pop package.

I have the feeling that Jackson could toss off numbers like this with ease. But Luke has a bit more in mind. Jackson recorded this album in Sweden, and working with the steady hand of Christoffer Lundquist, he tackles more singer-songwriter type tunes with the help of the October 2nd strings.

Jackson’s melodies, even when the songs are moody, always leave a crack in the doorway where you can see the sunlight. This is exemplified on the lovely “A Little Voice”. On this song, Jackson delicately plucks his guitar strings, while the orchestra in back splendidly swirls over and around him. The song manages to be solitary yet hopeful. Although Jackson sings, “But even when I think I’m flying free/something’s getting in the way,” his little voice still seems to keep him on course.

Jackson isn’t just looking inward. On “The Fear”, Jackson has a message for all of us, and that is to break free from the fear that holds us back. (Yes, this is also the message of the Albert Brooks film Defending Your Life). The design of this song is basic and effective. The verses are gentle, and Jackson sounds empathetic and reassuring. Then the chorus swells with the strings and some cool lap steel guitar from Lundquist. Fans of Cloud Eleven and Wisely should eat this up.

The most impressive track on the album is “All I Can Do”, where Jackson pushes his voice to the limit, and a bit past it. Here, the strings are in full force. Jackson’s guitar provides the rhythm, while the strings swoop and soar, playing delightful melodies. This song is about a long distance relationship that’s driving our dear Luke mad, but he resigns himself to his fate. Here, Jackson shows how to make a chorus build for maximum effect, and the middle eight that comes out of the second chorus is simply devastating. The ornate music doesn’t overwhelm the emotions, it amplifies them.

I’m focusing on the weightier material here, but don’t think this entire album will put you through the wringer. Jackson shows off a winning sense of humor on the guitar fueled “Goodbye London”, where he declares he’s had it with the frustrations of living in the big city (like “dodgy Thai cuisine” and a bad CCTV experience that cost him 100 quid). He even engages in some whimsy on the brief instrumental “1970’s Kids TV Show Theme”.

Jackson put a lot of care into this record and found some terrific collaborators. For fans of the bands I referenced above (and I might as well throw in The Pearlfishers too), this is well worth checking out.

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