A Journal Of The Dark Arts
street date: 8.13.13
RIYL: Mt. Eerie, Fleet Foxes, Stephen Steinbrink/French Quarter, Neutral Milk Hotel, Paul Beribeau
Making music is inherently an optimistic act. No matter how bleak, how cynical the subject matter or world view, it takes an incredible amount of time and energy to learn to play an instrument, set pen to page and scribble some lyrics, record songs, find a label, play shows and meet kindred spirits. It’s a tremendous amount of work, and it’s not for quitters. Slackers will most likely never cross yr ears, or not for long, at least.
On this slight, 4-track EP from Texas troubadour Randy Jones, The Grand Optimist, the man struggles with the ennui of modern life, realism struggling against cynicism. This dichotomy makes for a release with substance, that seperates this from the chaff of nondescript music with no meaning, that keeps the listener coming back for more.
Once yr hooked, once yr paying attention, you begin to notice the subtleties and nuances, that makes this stand out as a stunning debut. I file this under the placard Indie/Experimental Folk, which might be the kiss of death for some readers of this blog, but don’t be so hasty! Like the works of Mt. Eerie, it is the detailed production and songwriting, that makes Quiet Your Mind stand head and shoulders above his peers, who merely adopt a folk stance to gain friends and win popularity. From the cascading chorale of album opener The Eastern Rise, it is clear that great time and effort has gone into writing these songs, as well as their recording and mixing. It was even mastered, for chrissakes! It sounds luxuriously pro, while retaining the immediacy and intimacy of raw, lo-fi homemade recordings.
Once yr hooked, you begin to notice that Jones is a helluva guitar playing, spiralling fingerpicking and quick, engaging chord changes keep the songs moving forward, never getting boring and repetitive. I would advise any aspiring folkists listen to this record, as an example of how it’s done. Interesting instrumentation; poetic, emotional lyrics, earthy yet surreal; vocal harmonies. Quiet Your Mind has all the charm of early Beirut, Iron And Wine, and Fleet Foxes. There is a great talent, and a trve love of music at work here, and you’d be advised to check it out now, while he’s still playing small, cheap shows and answering e mails. The Grand Optimist is going places; he has reason to feel optimistic!
Randy Jones hit me up on Reddit, of all places, thanks to another review i had written. A great majority of musicians that blindly submit to my inbox are complete and utter shit, so there is always a sense of hesitancy when i agree to check out someone’s tunes out of the blue. It’s like ‘what’s a nice way to tell this person their music sucks?’ Most of the time i just won’t write about it at all. But i strive to maintain open ears and mind, no matter how much music i hear in any given day, and i’m glad i did, in this case. It’s one of the joys of being a music reviewer, when some gem drops out of thin air and brightens up yr day, gives you hope for the future. I’ve had a lovely afternoon, watching early October through rain-speckled window panes, playing this EP on repeat.
Thanks to Randy Jones for getting in touch, and the care and craft that he puts into his presentation. If you live in the Dallas vicinity, go check him out live, let us know how it is. Take pictures.