The pandemic has nurtured a wealth of introspective singer/songwriters who have spent the last few months pondering their state of being, the state of the country, and the state of the world in isolation. Northern Michigan’s Jake Allen, however, didn’t ponder these things from quarantining at home. Instead, he wrote the bulk of his new album Affirmation Day in Vilnius, Lithuania after a hefty tour through Japan, Russia, Europe and China. Isolation in Eastern Europe can do a number on your brain.
“Affirmation Day is a deep dive into the dichotomy of just moral values versus the conditions that both individuals and the human race as a whole tend to manifest,” he says, swimming in the heaviness of global plight. “Under that umbrella, the album explores themes of what may lie behind the veil of life, feelings of isolation in a world that is seemingly more connected than ever, and the desire to develop compassion amongst these conditions.”
His current single “Rising Tide” is drenched in this sort of earnestness, exploring the weight of the world and the lack of care and attention that we humans foist upon the earth, wrecking and decimating it in parts until there’s nearly nothing left but destruction.
The folkpop track highlights his trademark acoustic finger plucking style which follows in the lush and exquisite tradition of Damien Rice and Duncan Sheik, heart firmly placed on their proverbial sleeves. His complex and twisty command of the melody is a joy to hear. Avoiding simple hooks and expected progressions, his instrumentation borders on prog rock while keeping a taut and streamlined pop melody, reflecting the drama of the lyrics. He says of the track that it’s “about the encounters I’ve had throughout my world travels that have shined a light on certain human conditions, and even more so, the American condition. This deeply embedded idea of progress by any means necessary kept bothering me.”
The accompanying video for “Rising Tide” is a near literal visualization of man’s plunge into environmental disaster. “It’s disappointing to see people out there bulldozing their way to success without thinking about who and what they’re hurting along the way,” he explains. “This song just acknowledges that tendency and tries to be a reminder of its imminent consequences.”
Translating the cautionary lyrics into the captivating visuals was a challenge. “After writing a song about the imminent downfalls within the idea of progress by any means necessary, I felt like the message deserved to be stretched into a visual place,” he says. “So director Jake Burgess and I set out to portray this kind of moral blindness in an engaging way.”
Set behind images of glaciers plunging into the sea, roiling hurricane waves, war and other threatening and ferocious crises, Allen pours out his emotions, singing the lyrics while being splashed with water, submerged, or drenched, signifying the severity of his pleadings. Meanwhile, another darker visual competes screen time – an image of a figure suspended upside down, fighting to be freed. Writhing to escape imminent death by drowning in the waters of complacency and disregard, he struggles helplessly.
“This seeming content, symbolic figure slowly escalates into a state of fighting for its life alongside these threatening images of mankind’s ignorant transgressions,” Allen describes tensely. “It’s a reminder that I think is relevant to both our race as a whole and to each of us as individuals.”
Not one for mixing metaphors, he concludes appropriately, “We all have our own rising tides in our lives. Catching them before they drown us is the challenge that we face.”
With the release of the Rising Tide video, Jake Allen is now donating 20% of album pre-orders and any sales in his online merch store to the Live Blue Foundation, a group that is actively putting into practice the science behind the benefits water has on emotional wellness.