Wednesday, November 19, 2008

ARTIST: Paul Jacobsen & the Madison Arms

Several months ago I got to see Paul Jacobsen play at the Velour in Provo. His quiet manner and thoughtful lyricism really impressed me, so I picked up his self-titled debut and looked forward to his then yet-to-be-released new album.

That new album just landed in September, and I finally got the chance to hear recorded those songs I'd heard live so many months before. On my first listen, I'll admit that I wasn't completely smitten - but as I returned for a second, third and fourth spin, these songs continued to get better and better, becoming a little more personalized each time. Backed by The Madison Arms, this disc has a little more of a country swagger than his first outing, and the whole thing is much more finished. While some of his jauntier takes are fun (see Like a Proper Noun), I still think his strength lies in his quieter, more intimate songs, and the album opens with one of his best - Lung. The verses playfully present a lonely fellow's attempts to trick an old lover into coming over with some little-white-lies ranging from being held for ransom to being terminally ill - it's pretty, and while the song brings a bit of a smile it never loses its deeper sort of lonely heartache. The last song on the album, At That Day, was one I'd particularly loved live - an acoustic hymn of hope for a better day, after "colored stripes paint TV sets on every street" and we realize that we're "something bigger than the sum of all our sins". Whether you believe there's a Last Day coming or not, the hope for something better that Paul expresses here is something we can all get behind.

The record ranges from the quieter Time and You're the Song, to the more rollicking The World Unkind and the Spanish-tinged Western Skies. And while never straying too far from oft-traveled musical paths, Paul's skillful songwriting is matched well by his new backing band and there isn't a bad song in the mix.

Paul Jacobsen & the Madison Arm - Lung
from the album Paul Jacobsen & the Madison Arm (iTunes)

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