I discovered this band back in 2013 within the realms of the so-called “Narnia of YouTube”. As a 15 year-old girl trying to fit into the angst, indie niche that had become so ironically popular, I was impressed with my find – Milkshake, the band’s debut EP. It was still early days for the indie-pop/rock band from Birmingham within the music industry and admittedly, I relished in the novelty of JAWS. Despite this, their music has been one of my frequent go-to albums ever since. I’m not surprised that their re-emergence within the music scene upon the release of Simplicity has been thoroughly welcomed with ebullience from their fans.
Simplicity is an album which encapsulates the epitome of what it means to grow up and transition into the real world. The whole process of this stage in life is often regarded as surreal, which is particularly fitting with JAWS’ dreamy sound that they have maintained as one of the key traits of their music over the years. Upon my first listen, I was immediately hooked to the calm and majestic atmosphere created by the melodically pleasing chord variations used in the tracks throughout the album. I could tell that the band had used their time away well in refining their music, adding more layers such as the weighty yet content percussion coupled with the although predictable but comfortable guitar riffs that have created richer tones and greater depth to their sound, resulting in the production of a spectacular album.
The album art says it all. The burst, blend and smudge of acrylic primary coloured paints on a contrasting canvas is abstract and simplistic, yet it illustrates a kind of basic, childish enthusiasm enmeshed within the mess and struggles that basically make up life. As the listener, you are taken from the hopeful mood of aspiration and confidence to the darker and harsher tones of stress and stagnation.
The opening track Just A Boy does well in setting the album in the right direction. Upbeat and steady, the song constructs the platform in showcasing the feeling of pride and envisioning one’s destiny. The minimalism of the repetitive two note verses are paired with the catchy lyrics of the chorus: “I’m just a boy, but I’ll be a better man.” The contrast displays the surge of energy that comes with the beginning of something new. The resonating lyrics, “I’m trapped in my skin, just take it off” are highly relatable and encourages those who have felt restricted due to their fear of judgement to step outside their comfort zone, sending out a good message.
One of my favourite tracks of the album is Right In Front Of Me. Greeting you with four bars of a simple drum intro, the track enters the fast-paced strumming from the bass, making you feel driven and a sense of determination that links closely with the lyrics: “I believe in what’s put right in front of me.” This particular track left a long-term impression as I thought it captured the feeling of being overwhelmed with the rush of life and responsibilities perfectly, both lyrically and musically. Often when we are caught up in the whirlwind, we tend to lose sight of our achievements and doubt ourselves. But the lyrics teach us to focus on the present which is something I feel that many people often forget. In addition, the music video of this track is absolutely mesmerising; multi-exposure with one side of the footage driving through the busy city streets at night on loop is the cherry on top in making the song what it is.
A special feature of Simplicity is JAWS’ interesting choice of including an Interlude. I personally have not encountered many albums that have included one apart from Muse and Alt-J, both having used them to break up the album and perhaps cleanse the (musical) pallet. The instrumental interlude in this particular album does well in establishing a division between the tracks to show the two different stages in life. The first half is about the beginning of that phase of life; the second half is more about getting by and trying again when failure comes, so the shift in focus is clear with the Interlude.
As a whole, Simplicity is not an album to be missed. There is a charm to it that manages to lift your spirits even when the songs speak about challenges and stresses. Whilst it might not be for everyone, the misty, reverbed vocals have the power to relax and make you feel as if you’re on a cloud. Underrated, JAWS deserves a lot more recognition, so be sure to go and give their new album a listen!