Album Review: Max Jury – Max Jury

By on Tuesday, 31st May 2016 at 12:00 pm
 

Max Jury album coverLast month over some late night beers, I had an interesting conversation with friends in bands about making music. They were telling me how important it was for them to break boundaries. It occurred to me in that moment why I have such an aversion to most music by the average solo singer/songwriter who plays a guitar. While they have been few and far between, there have been a few such acts that have stirred something deep inside me by being and doing slightly different – Stornoway come to mind immediately – and then there are others who have been gifted with bucketloads of talent and a rich wealth of experience to draw from, and it just works. Max Jury falls in the latter category and while he might be young – he’s only 23 – I’ll explain why I think his eponymous debut album out at the end of this week deserves your swift attention.

Although the Iowan singer/songwriter – who also plays piano in addition to guitar, thank you very much – has decamped to London for the foreseeable future, ‘Max Jury’ was actually recorded in New York and North Carolina. Intriguingly for this release, he worked with hip hop producer Inflo, who was behind The Kooks’ less-than-successful return in 2014 and foray into r&b. Presumably Inflo’s influence was to inject a gospel vibe into the project. And it’s a vibe that’s been nicely reined in without detracting from Jury’s art and in such a way he himself was pleased with, as you can see in the video below. The clinging emotion of longing on ‘Numb’, Jury’s debut single, opens this LP and incidentally also opens the soundtrack to this summer’s likely romance film blockbuster Me Before You.

The songs of Jury’s debut album has touches of disparate genres of country, soul and rock ‘n’ roll, yet his smoky voice ties everything together, adding incredible colour to this release. As you listen to him sing of the most personal stories from his life, it feels like you’re being given insight into the experiences of a wise old soul. In a recent interview with Mojo, he admitted that depression stymied him at an early age and that songwriting is an effective way for him to express his melancholy. Through his art, Jury explores the gloom and doom of painful heartbreak in contrasting ways, both winning and incredibly effective. The deceptively upbeat ‘70s rock nature of ‘Beg & Crawl’ (video here) belies the anxiety of a love gone wrong, and its lyrics betray its true nature as a poison pen letter to a careless paramour: “it’s not romantic / to take this for granted”. In ‘Great American Novel’, Jury chooses a dirge-like pace for his recollections on regret.

‘Standing on My Own’ splits the difference in tempo, with brief experimentation with falsetto and with a theme revisited on ‘Little Jean Jacket’. The b-side to ‘Numb’ sees the songwriter pull himself up by his bootstraps up and announce his independence from a toxic partner: “get your money and get your kicks somewhere else / and when I see you on the avenue, I’ll be standing on my own.” The falsetto returns on ‘Grace’, during which both a warbling guitar and a backing choir take a backseat to Jury’s emphatic vocals, insistent that he’s “stuck in a world that doesn’t care for me” and “you and I both know it’s not that easy”. Something tells me Max Jury isn’t soon going to romanticise love through rose-colored glasses. It’s this emotional realism – a realism that rings true in the face of the faux feelings of pop music today – that makes this musician’s songs such showpieces.

Album standout ‘Love That Grows Old’ is a great example of what Jury does best. His voice follows the melody with the nimbleness of a ballet dancer, the lyrics expressing the deep-seated desire to wait for however long it takes for the right woman. He acknowledges that real love doesn’t come without a struggle and that he has to find his own way to romance. With tasteful, well-appointed strings adding a further richness, it’s a knockout on all levels. Conversely, far less successful is the diverting ‘Ella’s Moonshine’. While conceived as a sweet ode to a Southern friend, the effects put on the tune to ‘age’ the recording, in addition to the giggle-inducing, low tone backing vocals, feel like major missteps.

If you’re going to be a singer/songwriter in the always crowded field of hopefuls in this genre, you better be equipped with some mad skills. Even though he hasn’t even reached the age of 25 yet, it’s not a guess but a foregone conclusion that Max Jury’s rich voice and deft handle on classic songwriting will serve him well and into a long, fruitful career.

8.5/10

Max Jury’s self-titled album will be released this Friday, the 3rd of June on Marathon Artists. To explore more of TGTF’s coverage of Jury’s music, head this way.

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There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours we love and think you should too.

We love music that has its heart on its sleeve, tells a story, swims around our head all day or makes us dance like no-one's watching.

TGTF is edited by Mary Chang, who is based in Washington, DC. She is joined by writers in England, America and Ireland. It began as a UK music blog by Phil Singer in 2005.

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