Independent Spotlight is a continuing series on Stewart’s blog. The series revolves around independent artists and bands sending their music to Brett to review. No band is promised a positive review, and all music is reviewed honestly in an effort to better independent music.
In this evening’s edition of the Independent Spotlight, we set our gaze on Jacko Poli, an indie pop rock vocalist with a full backing band. Though the group is named after Poli, they offer up a much more existential description of their namesake. Essentially, ‘Jacko Poli’ is not one man or band - it’s an idea. Alright, I can roll with that. Let’s hop on board with the idea of Jacko Poli for his sophomore studio endeavor, ‘Jagged Recollections.’
As aforementioned Poli is the lead vocalist of the ensemble. Four musicians back him, including a dedicated pianist and trumpeter. Poli does pen his own songs. Thus, with a rather vague self-description, I wasn’t particularly sure where ‘Jagged Recollections’ would land. Fortunately, it lands on its feet. ‘Because it Burns,’ the opening tune, is a bold statement to that effect. It’s a romping indie rock piece with fantastic lead vocals and a sonically compelling landscape chock-full of trumpet. How can you not love that?
‘Lines of Love’ actually offers up a much more intriguing piece of music. The beautifully written song is harmonious, catchy, and particularly well-written. ‘You Are,’ the third track, takes another incredibly different turn. It’s raw, dirty, and employs sonic intricacies akin to garage rock or experimental rock. (A whole lot of distortion and messy electric guitar.) This is incredibly good for Jacko Poli. Let me explain...
Jacko Poli occupies an insanely oversaturated space: bands that classify themselves as ‘indie’ and toy with pop and rock influences. The only indie scene that’s more overpopulated is the acoustic ‘singer songwriter’ scene. Thus, I was immediately wary of Jacko Poli. So many of these ‘indie’ bands sound eerily similar to one another, employing the same tactics and stylings. ‘Jacked Recollections’ establishes itself quickly as a diverse effort. As soon as the garagey ‘You Are’ subsides, the acoustic-driven, pop-leaning ‘Above the Ceiling’ arises, providing a much more accessible tune for the average listener. That's a big contrast.
‘Slow Mo’ is a particularly good track, perhaps even the best of the first half of the album. It’s composition is remarkably interesting to me - its lyricism is excellent and the instrumentation is equally as good. The subtle percussion, recurring harmonies, and piano lead provide an insightful soundscape quite unlike the rest of the record. Poli continues to prove himself a versatile and worthwhile frontman.
‘Chinatown’ is a superb tune, too. I so adore the trumpet riffing. One could argue that the track is Jacko Poli’s most radio-ready anthem. I could absolutely see this getting serious airplay on an indie rock station, perhaps college radio. “Something is going down in Chinatown,” Poli declares over a raucous of band banter and light-hearted vibes. At this point, it’s also worth touching on the production quality of ‘Jagged Recollections,’ too. Without delving deep into the qualities of its mix and master, it’s an album that’s immensely well executed. Nothing feels overproduced or out of place.
That production quality extends to ‘R.I.O.T.All,’ the second serious highlight of the album. What’s the highlight here, though? It’s Poli’s songwriting. This song exhibits some of the strongest on the album. It certainly embraces a level of brevity, but I dig that. It’s catchy and so well sung. “I’ll cry for you,” Poli croons over a soft atmospheric piece until the song explodes in a Phil Spector-esque manner. ‘I Cling to You,’ the following tune, also embraces a similar level of brevity. This song is musically brief, though, accentuating Poli’s presence with acoustic backing and light electric guitar musings. (I’m a huge fan of the Beatles - an appreciation Poli and I both share. ‘I Cling to You’ has elements of the fab four scattered throughout, at least, spiritually and harmonically.)
As the album closes, the last few songs continue to make some positive arguments for the quality of Poli’s work. ‘Fly,’ another piano lead piece, seems to pull Poli into entirely foreign vocal pastures. He’s able to really break out of his shell and showcase his vocal chops here, making it an admirable piece on the latter end of ‘Jagged Recollections.’ The instrumental ‘Enemies of Freedom,’ offers an insanely good, jazzy segway into the finale, ‘UFO.’ (Well, instrumental aside from an obscure usage of an old Aldous Huxley interview.)
‘UFO’ returns to the indie rock elements the album introduces itself with on ‘Because it Burns.’ Thus, it has a satisfying sense of finality to it. That’s probably the best way to describe ‘Jagged Recollections' as well: satisfying. It’s a listening experience that challenges the listener to repeatedly adapt to different styles and lyrical themes. This allows Poli to separate himself and his music from the rest of the influx of indie rock. (There’s a whole lot of it. Like... way too much.) So is ‘Jagged Recollections’ worth streaming below on Band Camp? I sure as hell think so.