The Bitter Tears – Jam Tarts in the Jakehouse

The Bitter Tears - Jam Tarts in the Jakehouse

The Bitter Tears - Jam Tarts in the Jakehouse

Proclaiming that your music is “obtuse and catchy” creates a lot of speculation. Paired with severely cryptic lyrics, brass and woodwind sounds emitted from old, partially worn-out instruments and a fishy concoction of melodious music, Jam Tarts in the Jakehouse, is a creatively convicting album. Obtuse and catchy seems about right and once you dig deep, it really starts to creep in.

Mixing a steady array of country, folk and pop musings, chief-songwriters, Alan Scalpone and Michael McGinley, bring all of their unusual twitches to the plate. There is a certain rawness here and the way that Scalpone sings-full of confidence and lyrical importance-allows the music to reveal a reliable portrait of sincerity. Something like “The Companion” flashes from quiet, innocuous, undertones to loud, offensively shrieking sections that are intertwined with slamming drums and Scalpone’s boisterous voice.

The Bitter Tears’ press release does a good job of emphasizing the band’s live shows. But whether or not you ever get to see this quintet of idiosyncratic musicians is not the case. The music on Jam Tarts in the Jakehouse is definitely going to affect people in very different ways. People who like their music to be playful and still possess that certifiable catchy riff will love “Slay the Heart of the Earth,” which follows the life of an angry farmer who wants to lay all of his misfortunes on everyone else. And then, the quintet has the ability to switch things up with the ballad, “Oiling Up.” The beginning guitar lick is eerily similar to U2’s “Red Hill Mining Town” and even though the both follow dissimilar paths, the former is a breath of fresh air on its own accord.

“Starlight” is like a cross between Bonnie “Prince” Billy’s country folkings mixed and the Dirty Dozen Brass band’s snappiest arrangements. Towards the end of the song, the strings cut in and end everything on an impressive note: completely out of the blue but surprisingly fitting. Later, on the album’s closer, “Worthless Sleaze,” the horns are featured yet again; sprawling, although they are surely sleazy, they are a welcome addition. The lack of genuine seriousness could be misguided in all of the music’s characteristics but even something like the lulling “The Love Letter” should prove the songwriter’s worth. With brass instruments that they found at various pawn shops and with some rudimentary basics, they are able to reveal an added dimension of musicality.

These various styles could alter someone’s expectations of what it all should sound like but an album like Jam Tarts in the Jakehouse should be approached with as little premonition as possible. It may not be the life-altering listen of the year but even with some ‘obtuseness’ comes a little bit of ‘catchiness’ and yeah, that can go a long way.

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