Review: The Jazz June, ‘After The Earthquake’
If there’s one thing Topshelf Records knows how to do, it’s take a previous decade’s buried gems and give them new life. Topshelf has been responsible for putting out some incredible records this year, and I think it’s pretty safe to say that they are the label that literally embodies the phrase emo revival. This year alone we’ve seen acts like Braid and The Jazz June picked up, polished, and putting out some of the best material of their careers. The latter of the two has undoubtedly put out a record that has truly taken my by surprise.
I’m not going to lie, I have little to no knowledge of The Jazz June’s backlog. This is partially because of the sheer intimidation of trying to get through such an extensive catalogue. The Jazz June has been a band since 1996, and I’ve only been listening to them since September of this year. I’ve skimmed through some of their previous releases on the Topshelf Records bandcamp to help me draw comparison and nothing has gripped me quite like this record has. I can honestly tell you that ‘After The Earthquake’ is an incredible album that will hold your attention from start to finish.
The album opens up with a re-recorded version of the punchy “Over Underground” that we first heard on a split with Dikembe. The difference from one release to the next is so incredible that it’s difficult to believe these are the same the same songs. This is yet another testament to not only what an incredible band The Jazz June is, but to to what a phenomenal producer Evan Weiss of Into It Over It has become. His work on You Blew It’s ‘Keep Doing What You’re Doing’ was incredible, but this is at an entirely new level. I want to say that ‘After The Earthquake’ sounds like dad rock, but I mean that in the best way possible.
I could and have put this on in car rides with older relatives only for them show actual interest in the music. It’s cool to finally have a band that I’m really into that doesn’t merit an eye roll or a “turn this garbage down.” The song that catches the most attention from them is “With Honors.” It’s not hard to see why either. This song feels like something that could have dominated airwaves in the mid to late 90s, but still sounds so refreshing.
This brings me to my next point: I understand that The Jazz June is a band that was reborn amongst newcomers in this emo revival but this record feels like the furthest thing from it. In that sense, I want to say that if you were a fan of older material, ‘After The Earthquake’ has the potential to be a polarizing record. This album is a nugget of radio ready alternative heaven.
There are moments on this album that feel like pure bliss. Most memorably, we have “Over Underground”, “With Honors”, “It Came Back”, “Aint It Strange”, and “Short Changed.” I stand by the fact that this album is an incredible listen through as a whole, but I’d be lying if I said that these aren’t the shining stars of the release. At the risk of sounding like a broken record that only spits out cliches, this album feels like a sonic field trip to a different point in time for music. This doesn’t feel like an album that would have come out in 2014.
‘After The Earthquake’ is so out of left field, and nothing like I would have expected. Especially after listening to their last studio effort ‘Better Off Without Air,’ which came out in 2002 and had an incredibly experimental vibe to it. I can’t help but revel and rejoice in the fact that they didn’t try to pick up where that album left off.
‘After The Earthquake’ is an album that should see no problem weaseling it’s way into the hearts of music lovers everywhere. This record may fall into the emo category for some, but it completely lacks the traits associated with the modern take on the genre. The guitars don’t twinkle so much as they do crunch, and the vocals don’t whine so much as they make a statement. I have no problem saying that this is the best album of The Jazz June’ career, and that they’ve effortlessly earned themselves a new fan. 5/5