Thursday, 9 June 2016

JAKE MORLEY – ALBUM REVIEW

Jake Morley – The Manual (Sandwich Emporium Records) 
Jake Morley - The Manual


Release Date: 10th June 2016

The arrival of this CD on my doormat happened at what you might call an opportune moment. You see, Jake Morley is one of my all-time favourite singer-songwriters so this second album was always going to make me smile but the fact that the album, ‘The Manual’, is a guide to how to be an adult man in adverse times seemed spot on what with just having been diagnosed with cancer in the last few months and having a young son named Jake as well. Themes of loss (Morley’s father died when he was 21), confusion and struggles with mental health all run through this album like letters through a stick of musical rock.

Anyway, on to the music, and this music is particularly fine. Opening with ‘The Floods’ you’d be forgiven for thinking that all is well in the world of Jake Morley as the quirky rhythm, slithering bass notes and professions of love create an atmosphere of romantic obsession that stays just the right side of stalking. It is on ‘Strange Loop’, however, that Morley’s unsettled state comes to the fore through his truly unique and astounding songrwriting comes to the fore as at least three or four songs are blended together in different movements and often at the same time to magical effect. Now, before the next song I would warn anyone who has been through a difficult break up recently to leave the room for 4 minutes and 59 seconds. You see, ‘Ghostess’ is an absolutely heart rending account of that period between the break up and getting over it as Morley takes in abandoned tooth brushes, indents in mattresses and socks left behind enemy lines. I don’t mind admitting it reduced me to tears and still brings a sting to the back of my eyes.

The Manual - fancy packaging
On ‘Falter’ our hero uses his guitar as though he’s playing a hip-hop waterfall such are the rippling notes and louche rhythm all held together by forlorn strings and lyrics that question every decision thus far in life. One of the undoubted highlights of the album, however, is the extraordinary ‘Watch Yourself’ during which Morley duets with a choir of his unconscious mind and works through a whole series issues whilst also holding down a catchy melody and some original arrangements – not bad for a three-minute indie-pop song that ends on a triumphant crescendo of mind and soul pulling together for the greater good. The piano led ‘Room In The Middle’ is another tear jerking rendition as Morley’s soft vocals show that he’s starting to come to terms with the issues that have been pulling him in myriad directions for so long. Then, on ‘Lionchild’, we return to the kind of tune that was more evident on Morley’s first album with scattered and hammered out acoustic notes and half spoken story telling as a vocal style.

Strangely, it is the seductively dark ‘Weight On My Eyes’ that provides potentially the most commercial moment on this record as the growling piano and guitar chug through a darkly rich tune which sees us getting to explore the darker reaches of Mr Morley’s soul and imagination. Despite opening like ‘The Living Years’ by Mike and The Mechanics, ‘Allegorical House’ is a truly outstanding piece of storytelling, songwriting and, yes, it’s tear jerkingly beautiful – happy tears this time though. A truly uplifting song without any pretentiousness or cynicism attached is a rare thing
Jake Morley - Genius
these days but on ‘Allegorical House’ the relief, joy and sense of release is entirely palpable and if it doesn’t touch you somewhere inside then you’ve issues of your own. Album title track ‘The Manual’ is a slow, late night acoustic jam which sees Morley explore his more soulful and philosophical side but the lines “walk tall, find a roof and make a bed. Take good care of all the ones that you love. Don’t be scared, be strong, carry the weight of the world. It’s time to learn what it means to be a man now” resonate so heavily with me in my current state that I can’t help but feel this album was somehow intended for me and me alone.

The album closes on ‘Start Again’, a statement of positive intention for the future and the kind of tune that will get folks dancing and smiling at the end of his sets every time. What Jake Morley has created on ‘The Manual’ is an intensely personal account of his battles and struggles delivered with incredibly original musicianship, inventive lyrics and real sense of care whilst retaining the freshness. The by-product of that work is an album that speaks directly to me at a particularly difficult time and, I suspect, will be a source of strength and support for a number of others going through stuff that they need a hand up from. Bravo Monsieur Morley, bravo indeed.


Listen/Download: http://www.jakemorley.com/music/  

Live Dates:

17th June – Le Vicomte, Rouen
18th June – La Scene Bourgogne, Orleans
19th June – Le Resevoir, Paris
20th June – Bar A Papa, Alencon
23rd July – ToneFest, Poole
16th November – Gullivers, Manchester
17th November – Bootleggers, Kendal
18th November – Sunflower Lounge, Birmingham
19th November – Thekla, Bristol

23rd November – Bush Hall, London 

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