In college my lyric writing professor told us, “don’t take it as a compliment when someone says you have a good voice.” His reasoning was that if the focus is on our playing, it’s not on our songs, and is therefore superficial. Sort of a “pretty building without a strong foundation” kinda thing. Or like a really jacked dude at the gym who benches 350 and has tiny little baby legs.
I would challenge that professor by playing him this god damn amazing album - Excelsior by Boston four-piece The Jauntee.
Yes, Caton Sollenberger is a fucking fretboard wizard. Yes, Scott Ferber’s drum fills made my eyes a little misty. Yes, Tyler Adams adds gorgeous keyboard textures in every song. Also who sings? The band’s website omits the vocalist. What other band is confidant enough in its instrumentals that they forget to mention who performs vocals?
But following my professor’s opinion would render these intricate, fun, virtuosic, richly composed songs meaningless, and I refuse to do that. Time signature changes, Queen-esque carnival polkas, tongue in cheek 60s doo-wop, and Beatles harmonies pop up here and there throughout the dense album, and every song is played and produced superbly.
Rip-roaring through the first five songs, I reached the ballad “I Wonder Why I Ponder” as I finished my second cup of coffee, and the beads of sweat on my forehead brought on by the sheer fucking brilliance of these musicians dissipated into the Chills.
The Chills are the reason I listen to music; the reason I am a musician, and the reason I give a shit about anything.
Brought on by a gorgeous sentence in a book, the rare kind of artwork that empathetically reaches out a hand and slaps me in the face, or, most often for me, by an interesting chord or lyric, by a musical build, etc, the Chills are a spreading douse of faintly orgasmic goosebumps that most often start deep in my chest and end at my forehead.
Jazz fusion is the predominant genre in this album, but folk, straight up rock-n-roll, and prog could all be used in describing the band.
The way I would describe them, however, is by saying that this album made me not care I had to go and be a waiter after writing this review, and that it inspired me, and that the audacious – no, bodacious – musical ambition present in every song made me sit at the edge of my chair and nod my head like a fucking maniac.
This is the kind of album that made me fall in love with music. Listen on Bandcamp here.
1. Good Ol' Boy
2. Lunch in Be
3. Know It All
4. Wake and Jake
5. Valley Girl
6. I Wonder Why I Ponder