Friday, August 9, 2013

Album Review: "Devil In Here" by Jack The Radio

Jack The Radio will celebrate the release of
"Devil In Here" on Fri. Aug 9 w/ Martha Ann Motel
at The Pour House
For Jack The Radio's third full-length release the band has deviated from their normal. While they're best known for southern-blend of blues driven indie rock, Devil In Here finds the band stripping back the distortion in favor of accentuating the subtleties with a live acoustic performance.

The group added three string players and mic'd up Amplified Art in downtown Raleigh to record two nights of sold-out performances, the result is Devil In Here alongside a live DVD. For a band that so frequently relies on their gritty background, Devil In Here is a refreshing take on a formulaic approach for the band.

Toning down the distortion allows the lyricism and instrumentation to actually take the forefront, rather than the visceral rhythms. A typical Jack The Radio experience is highlighted by their in your face roots rock, but when you forego those hefty sounds you're leaving yourself quite vulnerable. Some of this vulnerability pays off in bunches, tracks that are JTR staples like "Strange" and "Read My Eyes" feel like they were almost made to be acoustic jams. But these are also tracks that have very defined vocal melodies, they've got powerful refrains that have a knack for lingering in your head long after the song has left your ears. On that hand, Devil In Here works to a tee. However, the problem with the album is that all of these songs don't contain memorable melodies, and this aforementioned vulnerability leaves the band feeling a bit lacking.

However it almost goes without saying that the three-piece string ensemble works wonders in this setting. The strings add a much needed level of texture to the songs that breathes new life into low-key tunes and provides a strong aural foundation in tracks like "So Damn Good." Or take "Find Another" for example, it's one of the album's standouts but it's for very particular reasons. In the kindest way possible, it just doesn't feel like a Jack The Radio song. It feels like it was tailored more for the setting and instrumentation, which pays off exponentially when compared to some of the other tracks on this album like "Devil." "Find Another" plays on heightened tensions in its infectious chorus, shuffling percussion and staccato strings draws the listeners in while the tumbling verses bounce along with a folky melody.

Ultimately Devil In Here is a welcomed change in the course of Jack The Radio's trajectory. While their debut Pretty Money and sophomore album Lowcountry dabble in the familiar blues-rock realm, Devil In Here serves as a much needed step back to focus on their songs' foundations. While the stripped down approach unveils some of the missteps in Jack The Radio's songwriting, it also shines a light on their emotionality and cohesiveness. Their harmonies are stronger when they're not muddled by distortion and their unbridled devotion to creating relatable, compassionate music shines clearer than ever before.

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