Nick Jaina – The 7 Stations

Nick Jaina
The 7 Stations

Talk about an overdue review. I’ve been hording my thoughts on Nick Jaina’s The 7 Stations for ages now, and although I should only have myself to blame I want to put some in his lap as well. The man’s made a CD that is simply too good; I’ve been loving it to such an extent that I’ve procrastinated reviewing it simply because once I have done so, I’m obligated to move on to my next review. Perhaps this is screwy logic, but I never claimed to be balanced in my reasoning.

If you’re looking for a proper critique, I’ll save you a bit of time. Nothing but praise will follow. If it hadn’t been released in 2006, I’d say The 7 Stations is already cemented into the slot for my favorite album of 2007. My only complaint, I think, is that I already anxiously find myself awaiting a second album.

Before delving into the music, I’d like to switch gears for a moment. I bring your attention to the packaging. Pinball Publishing is responsible for the excellent presentation – we have everything unfolding, much the way the music does on the album, jaunty skulls gaping up at you from the disc within. They even use 100% recycled paper, which is rather swell of them.

I’ll admit to a wee bit of bias here. I was first exposed to Jaina via a stripped down live performance, where he caught me off guard and snuck under my defenses with his almost awkwardly passionate performance. After that encounter his music haunted me any time my mind was idle, until I reached the point where I contacted him asking if I could review the CD. The charming man indulged me sweetly, spiriting a copy into my grubby waiting hands. Since then, it has been reverberating around my skull and warming the cockles of my heart.

I’m quite enamored with the arrangement of tracks on this album, like layers of bittersweet chocolate cake; you want to gorge yourself on it all. We start off slowly with the melancholy lullaby nature of “7 Stations”, a delicate fusion of clarinet and vibraphone and Jaina’s lovely, slightly husky vocals.

This is followed by what I consider the album’s strongest offering, “Maybe Cocaine.” There is a brilliant understated urgency in this song, you feel an edginess amidst the smooth landscape of sound we’re presented with, building as the song progresses, somewhere between the thrumming of violin and the heartbeat of drums. For days after first hearing this live, I was haunted by my internal choir chanting, “Maybe cocaine can ease the weary voices in my brain.”

It is quite a chore to pick favorites, but I would say “The Red Queen” takes second place for me. Something sultry and swanky possesses you upon hearing it, leaving you swaying slightly in your seat or swaggering as you walk. Once again there is richness of sound with the upright bass, the violin, the trumpet, and I find myself possessed by some mysterious nostalgia upon listening. It catches you off guard the way sometimes receiving an unguarded and almost aggressive smile from a stranger can.

I’ll avoid going into every track, because I might begin to sound sycophantic. The build up that finally peaks 1:25 into “The Whim of the Ruling Class” is a moment not to be missed. “I Will Swallow The Sea” has my favorite lines encapsulated within, “Now I see the situation clearly, my foes enamored, my friends all fear me.” “Barleycorn & Toblerone” wins for sheer frenetic energy. “Seems The Calm The Baby” leaves us a bit haunted upon exiting the album.

My recommendation is to snatch up The 7 Stations ASAP, or at the very least find an opportunity to see Nick Jaina live. If anything, it is even more emotionally engaging than the album itself. Either way, certainly not an experience to be missed.