JBM > Not Even In July

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JBM

Not Even In July

(PARTISAN RECORDS)

Rating: ★★★½☆

There’s a level of peace and of stillness unique to a church– one that, whether you consider yourself a religious person or not, becomes palpable to those who enter. Not Even in July, the debut album of Montreal singer-songwriter Jesse Marchant (known more simply as JBM) was recorded in a Hudson, NY, church-turned-studio and utilizes that subtle air of unspoken reverence to craft a record that feels like one man’s soft, musical prayer for hope in a world that too often has too little.

Opener “Years” fades in slowly to reveal a gently plucked guitar line behind a lush assortment of strings. The arrangement, as do the others on the record, sounds as though each note were carefully hand-selected, and this attention to detail is what really makes the album. By the time Marchant comes in with “ain’t no use in calling up your friends,” the mood has long been established, the right emotions stirred, preparing the listener for the somber and lonely tale about to unfold. Throughout the album, Marchant’s reverb-washed vocals are simplistic and earnest, alluding to shadows of Thom Yorke (“July on the Sound”) just as easily as they do those of Neil Young (“Cleo’s Song”). Though lyrically the record ranges from suicide (“Swallowing Daggers”) to the futile struggles of social climbers (“Ambitions & War”), Marchant never lets go of a sense of hope, slight as it may be at times. “I feel the need to tell you that I think you’re gonna be fine,” he sings, on “In a Different Time.” You can tell he means it.

Not Even in July is not a quick study. It’s an album that grows in you more than it does on you, and each listen reveals a new layer to be heard and understood. Unlike some other, similarly complex records, however, this one’s worth the effort.