Review ~ Jimmy Pop – Varsity Blues ~ by Berkley Bragg

It seems as though the independent music community engulfed in the small town of Grand Rapids, Michigan is infinitely expanding, and Jimmy Pop is at the forefront.

Bands like Heaters, Ghost Orchard, Dear Tracks, CARE, SAPPHIC, and so many more. One of the more established musicians from the area, James Allen, has procured a substantial number of music projects in the last few years with Youth Camp, Jade TV, and more recently Jimmy Pop, who recently released the debut record, Varsity Blues. 

With these previous projects in mind, it is easy enough to discern the similarities and aspects of each within Varsity Blues. Without that background, it may just seem like a tasteful jangled album, but it really works either way. Varsity Blues does form it’s own shape apart from these separate projects in the fact that much of the record creates a more ascertainable instrumental atmosphere as opposed to Jade TV, a project that relies more on the inclusion of layered vocals.

A few singles released in the last few months are present here with, “Coca-Cola Crush” as well as, “Hang Around”, both of which co-exist on the same realm of relaxation. “Hang Around” provides a more melodic and airy feeling. If you meditate to spacious layers of reverb then I think you can find your addiction in “Hang Around”. “Coca-Cola Crush” closes the record off with a guitar and vocal melody fit for the credit scene to a really slow and emotional film. Not to say that Varsity Blues is exuberantly emotional as it does linger and soak through your pores in the kind of way you want after a long day.

Essentially, give a listen to the whole of Varsity Blues and drift away.

Text by Berkley Bragg
Photo by Jimmy Pop

3 Discoveries of Berkley Bragg

I feel as though each of these three records work well with the seasons and have certainly done their part in keeping me collected in the last few weeks. They are also some of the more unique pieces that I have stumbled upon in a long while and as such, deserve as much credit as I can give.

Katie Dey’s Asdfasdf is something between a really wonderful dream and an unstable nightmare. In both ways the record works to perfection, providing the most bizarre warped vocals that i’ve ever heard, but still soothing me to sleep at the same time. I am at that point in my life where brooding, depressing sounds have found their way into the “recently added” section of my iTunes library, with “Fear o the Dark” being my most played. The best part about this record, however, is the completely off-the-wall, happy-go-lucky Wes Anderson styled anthem that is “Unkillable”. I couldn’t believe the amazing transition that Dey created between “Fear o the Dark’s” verge of death lament and the treetop screamer in “Unkillable”. That transition alone makes the entire album worth every minute. I really can’t say enough incredible things about Asdfasdf.

Stay Cool Forever’s Among My Slime is another mess of abrasive bliss that i’ve been absolutely enthralled with. On the surface, Among My Slime feels silly, almost childish in a sense, but the eccentric instrumentation is just one layer of the sound. If you strip that away you’ll have something much more endearing. Tracks like, “Fun Wound” and “Cecilia” teeter on the edge between playful and semi-serious, just the way I like it.

I Dont Wanna Die In Here’s self titled effort has been an ever expanding release considering every time I return to their Bandcamp page, the album has another two songs. Right now, I Dont Wanna Die In Here is my go-to for something sweet and serene. Much of the record sounds as if it was recorded on a mid 20th century telephone, giving it the essence of an “ultimate” lo-fi release. “Never Stay but Dont Leave” as well as “Stop Fight” also work with playful emotions (do you notice a trend?) evoking wistful and exuberant energy and at the same time, something so unperturbed.

Text by Berkley Bragg

Issue #3 of Discoveries

Review ~ Kane Strang – Blue Cheese ~ by Berkley Bragg

In some ways, Kane Strang’s debut release, Blue Cheese, is much like that of it’s Dunedin, New Zealand predecessors from the “Dunedin Sound” era of Flying Nun Records and Propellor Records. As a fully cohesive record, however, Blue Cheese creates a layer of sound that the records of the 1980’s were unable to do, blending the lo-fi aesthetic these bands crafted with a more clear and pristine recording technique.

There is something oddly familiar, yet so peculiar in the sound of Blue Cheese. The atmospheric presence on, “Full Moon, Hungry Sun” may play a part in that feeling as it encompasses an expanse much farther than it really is. It is easy enough to imagine this track being played on a grassy lawn to thousands, almost in a headlining festival ambiance but the actual recording feel’s much more intimate. Blue Cheese works with the same lo-fi sounds that have become so commonplace to find on Bandcamp with the rise of artists like Mac Demarco, however, Kane Strang recasts this typical sound with more depth, more accentuated songwriting, and a clearer focus.

In all, Kane Strang has taken something that has become so prevalent and abounding in the independent music sphere and turned it on it’s head to make something meaningful and memorable. Each track from Blue Cheese is inherently different in it’s own right, making for a really captivating listen, begging for more and more attention from it’s keen listener.

Text by Berkley Bragg
Photo by Kane Strang

Berkley runs music blog passwords2tracks.com