What you are about to read is a review of a jazz album by someone who has listened to a whole jazz album for the first time in his life.
I am not a music critic. I like music, and I really like criticizing things, but I don’t feel I have the credentials to be sitting here evaluating music with any kind of authority. Especially not jazz music, which has been depicted to me via popular culture as the background music while our hero seduces the leggy blonde in the cocktail bar.
In this review, you are not going to get a nuanced “take” on this record, but you are going to get an honest attempt and listening to, and describing, the music by someone who does not know how to do that.
You need to know the guitar player on the album, Andrew Trim, is my friend. We have known each other since high school, when Trim — I’m not being formal, that’s just what we called him — was a combo guard who also played loud teen-angst punk with some other guys at my school. They were called Third Person and played songs with names like, “Matt’s New Haircut.”
But anyway that was a long time ago and Trim has grown into quite the guitarist. I have no inclination to write anything about this album I don’t actually think, but I have learned in life that when you have a relationship of any kind with a guitarist, it’s best to just disclose it right off.
So, about the music.
Sitting there and just listening to music, the way you just sit there and watch a movie or just sit there and read a book or sit there and look at the paintings, is difficult for reasons I assume are obvious. We are at least the second, maybe the third, generation of Americans to whom music is really just part of the ambiance, like the curtains or the couch pillows or the scented candles. We think of music as a soundtrack to something else — a day at the beach, a house party, a romantic evening, etc. I’m going to skip the weighty cultural reasons this is probably true, because they’re tedious and everybody already knows what they are. But my point is, sitting there and listening without doing anything else required me to fight some urges possibly brought on by Twitter overdosage.
I have been doing a lot more of that, and I’ve come to enjoy listening to rock albums from front to back as a singular work rather than a collection of singles. I think a lot of people start doing this at a younger age, but I am always behind when it comes to stuff like this.
But the point is, that’s how I listened to this album.
And, let me tell you, the whole thing felt downright cinematic. This album — Look at Me So I Can Get Close to You by Danny Meyer, Andrew Trim and Charles Rumback — feels narrative, but movie narrative not journalism narrative. The wife and I both couldn’t help imagining a scene in our heads. There were sad scenes and triumphant scenes. One song in particular, “Thom Told Them to Take the Train” sounded confrontational, like when an underdog stands up to The Man in a sports movie. “Realm Devil” felt like an honest conversation at a bar at 2 a.m.
During “Fines” the wife said, “This is giving me anxiety.” Quite a trip, that “Fines.”
I wish I could speak more articulately about the musicianship, because I suspect it is quite high. Some of it was more experimental than my palate is prepared to savor. The wife had the same issue, and I likened it to being young and drinking Keystone Light and plastic-bottle vodka all the time and then being handed a glass of good whiskey and the first thing you want to do is add Coke. You’re just not ready yet. You’re not there.
But then other songs were more melodic. One of them made me think of “Planet Caravan” by Black Sabbath. Some of the songs reminded me of that kind of music, that more musical classic rock.
I found it helpful to try to make those kinds of mental connections. Something about connecting dots felt good. I feel like there are a few degrees of of separation between the music I’m familiar with and the music on this album, but I also think this album was highly emotionally communicative. I felt like the music was forcing me to consider it.
This was not background music. It would not work that way. This was a little dark and a little more magnetic than that.
And that’s all a way of saying I had a nice time.