It isn’t often you stumble across a record that stops you in your tracks. Usually this kind of reaction has to come from something sounding unfamiliar, yet at the same time being compelling and transformative. I imagine it’s very similar to stories older people will tell you about the first time they heard “that” band, whether it was Queen, The Beatles or whoever was big in their day. After releasing his sophomore album this past Friday I can honestly say Jim- E Stack’s “EPHEMERA” had this exact effect on me within minutes. The record comes packed with amazing collaborations such as Bon Iver, Bearface and Empress Of to name a few. The sheer list of talent on this record alone was enough for me to wrap my ears around it. What I experienced next was something else.
‘Note To Self’ opens the album with a rising, crunchy synth line accompanied by the beautiful vocals of Lorely Rodriguez of Empress Of. The duo deliver a strong message of reassurance within the lyrics, expressing the idea that it is okay to feel down at times. Their message embraces the pain as it allows you to grow and develop as a person. The production from Jim on this track compliments this message perfectly giving you this ‘get up and keep going’ feeling.
Going into this album, the collaboration with Bon Iver had me most intrigued and the pair delivered what you would expect from these two talented artists. Somehow the production reminds me of something Justin Vernon would have made himself, really showing the control Jim-E Stack has over his production and his ability to create something perfectly suited to his guest vocalist. The layered, warm, tape synths all mould together perfectly, creating a soft, yet, staccato rhythm that moves the song along at the perfect pace.
Minutes into listening to ‘Sweet Summer Sweat’ I felt that this track served as a perfect mirror to ‘Jeanie’ giving a softer, slower, guitar centric sound with a very similar mood. The track features the sweet vocals of Los Angeles based artist Dijon who’s melodies are so forward thinking and catchy, they allow the guitar to carry the whole song without losing interest. This track includes the most memorable hook of the album, I was sold once I heard “sw-sw-swe-swe-swee-sweet sweet summer”.
Jim-E Stack glues both sides of the album together with a heartfelt intermission, again, showing his prowess as a producer to be able to evoke such a large amount of emotion through an instrumental. Using a processed vocal hook expressing ‘Belong to you’, Jim gets us dancing with his crispy drums and groovy plucked guitars glazed over by his stabbing synths before leading us into ‘Lost Man’s, his collaboration with London raised rapper, Octavian. Weaving in and out of Octavians verses, Jim-E’s post choruses move into these cool 1975 soundscapes with a healthy injection of 80’s sound design. It’s different, transformative and the perfect example of genre blending.
By far my favourite track of the album is ‘One Shot’ featuring elusive BROCKHAMPTON member Bearface. A real glider suitable for any night time car trip, the track moves along a lofi-guitar loop and a pulsing trap beat. Coupled with the sweetness and intimacy of Bearface’s vocal the track keeps things simple which creates an overall hallucinative aura.
Concluding this album, Jim-E Stack teams up with singer/songwriter Kacy Hill in a feel good R&B anthem, ‘Can We’. In what sounds like sampled music straight from the 60’s, the crunchy breakbeat of the drums along with the offbeat guitar strikes take you back in time while also enjoying the clarity of Kacy’s vocal sitting above Jim’s warped tape sound design. This sudden change of direction in sound at the very end of the album is what makes this record incredibly transformative. No longer are artists sticking to the boundaries of a genre that people choose to categorise them in. Jim-E Stack is making music that he wants to hear and by doing so, gives his audience a deeper connection to his personality. Modern audiences have grown to become fans of music as a whole and are less constricted to genre than ever before. This makes artists like Jim-E Stack standout as he explores multiple genres in the span of one record.
With only two albums released under his name, production credits with Charli XCX, Haim and Bon Iver it’s clear that Jim-E Stack is set to be a big name in the music industry. With such forward thinking, genre blending music I am excited to see how Influential he can be in the future of pop music.