Words by Kate Lockyer
All the slick, cool atmosphere of a late-night party on an inner-city balcony. Or maybe one-on-one midnight D&Ms. Jarryd James has recently released his second album, ‘P.M.’. The warm buzz of James’ vocals and understated beats in his newest album are awash in flickering city lights. Best known for his song Do You Remember, the fourth most Shazamed single of the decade, James is back with his punchy R&B tunes. This time, he has travelled all over the world to pen the album, from LA to the Nicaraguan jungle.
Miracles, the first track on ‘P.M.’, is a moody meditation on the long road to success. James seems to be calling out for an answer to a question that is playing on his mind, singing over and over “What’s the education, what’s the basis?” He’s looking for a new approach – “I’ve been prayin’ so long / I’ve been waitin’ so long for… miracles”. A slow, deliberate beat and creeping synth anchor James’ lyrics.
I Do is a groovy song with serious earworm potential. Meandering synth and soft percussion start off the song, before James folds muted vocals into the mix. As he reaches the chorus, it is like a camera slowly pulling into focus, from a patchwork of colours to a clear image. James is singing about devotion – “Too many times I compromise and tell myself I know why I said that / Everything I do, I do for you”. This is no ordinary photography, and with every swirling line of the chorus James tugs you a step closer into the picture. “No-one else, nobody ever knows me like you / Nobody ever knows me like you / Every I do, I do for you / Nobody understands me like you / Nobody complicates me like you”. But then you blink, and as the song fades out on a rhythmic keyboard riff, you’re left with the colours James highlighted in the frame.
Let It Go, by comparison, starts by stripping the vocals back. Written in the jungle of Nicaragua, it is perhaps imbued with a sense of isolation and disorientation. Whispers of synth, like a breath blown across the top of a bottle, fill the space around James’ lyrics, vividly capturing a lonely night, “Four in the morning / Daylight crawl in / How did we get like that, do we get right back, do we get right back?”. The chorus kicks in with intoxicatingly effected vocals and we get a taste of James’ falsetto.
The next track, Problems, is another funky song that showcases James’ mastery of rhythm. With lyrics that seem to convey a frustration with the mundane, perhaps the drudgery of a relationship going nowhere, there is an infectious rhythm of his vocals in the chorus –“We’re runnin’ out of time and we’re not gonna get it back / No we’re not gonna get it back / We’ll never know enough but we know what we cannot have / But we know what we cannot have”. James taps out the beat of the everyday with his voice, while snappy percussion moves the song along.
Heady, minor-key synth arpeggios layer onto James’ slick vocals in Don’t Forget. Reminiscing about the good times, he croons, “Play me that song that you played me / All night, when the love was enough”. Different Language continues along parallel tracks, yearning for a time when James doesn’t speak a different language to the person at the centre of his attention. Once again, he plays it cool and saves the best for last. Starting slowly, the track gains a lazy, effortless kind of momentum thanks to sharp percussion, soulful lyrics and a contrastingly brightly-timbred guitar riff.
Slow Motion feels another one of the catchier songs from the album, exploding into a driving beat that leads to a punchy chorus. As James sings “Even when I can’t see straight / Even when I lose my faith / I’ll never let you go / Never let you go, never let you go”, you can hear the repeated “never let you go” spinning around in slow motion. Stop Me, the next track, follows in the footsteps of classic R&B, combining raw lyrics in a funky hook that showcases James’ earnest vocals.
Released in tandem with the new video for closing track and single Overdue, the track features 22-year-old Wisconsin rapper Trapo. The lyrics of Overdue sound like a call back home, when the lure of “California dreams” has faded and the homesickness set in. Falsetto at the end of the chorus is an aural treat, and you’ve just floated off on James’ vocals when Trapo’s feature emerges, a powerful finish to ‘P.M.’.
In the five years since his last album, ‘Thirty-One’, James has produced a fresh, modern sound in his newest release, ‘P.M.’.
Stream ‘P.M.’ HERE!
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Thanks to Universal Music Australia + Island Records