Based out of Chicago, JJ Smith released his debut EP, ’28 Club’ this past March after a successful crowdfunding campaign. The album is an unusual blend of acoustic guitar chords, folk strings and unusual vocals. Daring sound experiments define the sound of a progressive vector in ’28 Club’.
The music of JJ Smith is a delicate, almost perfect balance between acoustic folk and country music. The guitars are mostly bathed in gentle reverb, but also create foggy, dreamy, cold atmospheres, while the organic strings capture it all with an effective ambient finish. JJ’s vocals are irresistibly appealing and layered with melancholy. It’s worth noting that JJ has a rather unrepeatable sounding voice that avoids clichés while resonating with soulful sentiment.
Each song on ’28 Club’ feels unique in itself, but also connects with the overall mood of EP – a task that many attempt but few achieve. The result is a kind of acoustic symphony, with art minimalism playing the role of first violin. For while ’28 Сlub’ is a stunning example of a true acoustic folk record, it could also be a soundtrack for a festival film or simply a sonic diary of an experiments.
’28 Club’ opens with ‘Still,’ which falls into an early trance with strumming acoustic guitars. Immediately the visionary mood is set up and combined with some foggy vibes. From the first track, you can hear the benefits of Smith’s stateliness as the guitar lines take their time; the guitar rings out in straightforward, unfolding chords while JJ’s voice provides the ground beneath the melody. The song stands out for its wide and emotionally charged range.
After the bitersweet ‘Still,’ things take a surprising turn on the beautiful instrumental track. Being the shortest of all the songs ‘Splint’ is a textural experience, something to be heard through a pair of headphones and to get lost in.
‘Every Time’ builds on swaying country-style guitar picking and ‘Doorbell’ manages to create an unpredictable dance of harmonies, filled with stylistic outrageousness and charming vocals. The final 6-minute track ‘Should?’ leaves room for reflection. The new tonality creates an interesting concept. The minor sound of the guitar and the weightless vocals invite to a mysterious emotional journey, to destroy all hopes at the end of the song.
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