Reviews

Jake Bellows: New Ocean

Author: Mike Palmieri
12/01/2013 | In Your Speakers | inyourspeakers.com | Album Review
It is currently 39 degrees in Saratoga. There is a light rain and the cloud coverage is giving the day a sort of melancholic feel that can't be shook. The sky is gray, the air is cool, my skin is damp, this is the perfect atmosphere for New Ocean, Jake Bellows' latest album.

If Bellows sounds familiar, he was the lead singer of Neva Dinova (a band that toured with the likes of Death Cab for Cutie and Bright Eyes). Life led him out of his hometown of Omaha and into Los Angeles. Bellows' career seemed likely to fade away with his departure from the music scene—leaving the band he'd been with for fifteen years and driving away from the city that he called home is a big step for any musician. His career, however, took a turn into film scoring; the events that would lead to the release of his first solo album.

At first listen, Bellows' music felt boring, like something was missing. His work with Neva Dinova never bored and was on par with Bright Eyes and similar acts. But the solution to the problem didn't present itself until the weather changed. New Oceans is an album to listen to on a cold and dismal day. It deserves cloud coverage to set the stage lighting. It calls for minimally busy traffic (both human and vehicular) on the streets, just enough to divert eyes for a few seconds. New Oceans is best served next to a cup of coffee or tea in a coffee shop. That being said, New Oceans isn't necessarily a "cold" album.

Bellows isn't emotionless, he isn't ambivalent, he isn't unconcerned with the quality of sound. He is, however, providing a certain gray feeling to a calm day. "Gray" may be confusing, but listening to the album will result in a feeling of disquietude or boredom on a sunny day. This album truly stands out when the weather reflects the tone of Bellows' music. Everyone is different—of course rainy days can be a downer to some.

New Ocean is perfect for cold days, warm flannels, and coffee. Do not listen to this album when it's nice out. Why? Listeners won't be able to pay full attention to the quality of lyricism that Bellows provides. The music will be shadowed by the bright sun. The sound of the album will be drowned out by laughter, enjoyment, and happiness.

The lyrics reflect something heart-wrenching. Bellows' voice and music provides the perfect quietude for relaxation. The instrumental work is reminiscent of a folk album, but a bit edgier, not much, but New Ocean is far from being considered an entirely folk album. The production quality is great: a quality sounding record provided by Saddle Creek Records isn't surprising. Bellow's vocal performance on the album remains in an stratospheric state—not a whisper but more of a calm, conversational voice—as if he's melodically talking to the listener. First track, "New Ocean," listeners will discover a strange crescendo. The entire song—slow, near-whisper, secret—is a four minute and thirteen second crescendo. From the beginning the listener will be asking "When is this damned thing going to crescendo?" It will. Don't worry. The following tracks while similar in some ways to the opener, showcase the diversity of the record's sound.

It took bad weather (and over a week of listening) to finally determine that New Ocean isn't as bad as previously thought. What does that say about the album? It really depends on the listener. For those who like dreary weather this album will be great. For those who are listening to music to listen to music: the album will probably be a bore. The first five listens yielded an absolute hatred for the track "All Right Now." But like the weather, those adverse feelings changed.

Bellows provides an album to slow dance to in the kitchen while the kettle whistles. The imagery via lyricism is great—Bellows is truly a talented songwriter. But maybe his songwriting is better for dreary days that need a musical fire to provide listeners some warmth. While the album is impressive, it also boasts an undesirable listening setting to most. Listeners in Seattle, London, and other rainy places might find Bellows' voice to be a bit warming to their weather situation. Otherwise, this album is only one to throw on when it's cold outside.
Jake Bellows: New Ocean

Jake Bellows: New Ocean

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New Ocean

New Ocean

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