Our Take: Jarryd James Debuts With Love and Restraint

Jarryd James (YouTube screenshot from "Do You Remember")

Our Rating

There’s a new suave producer-singer/songwriter on the loose, and if we’re not careful, we may just fall for him. Jarryd James fits that perfect niche between Hozier/James Bay and Jack Garratt/Justin Timberlake, creating a rich brand of R&B-influenced electro-pop that showcases the Australian artist’s honey smoked vocals and emotive songwriting.

Jarryd James EP - Jarryd JamesJames’ debut, self-titled EP (9/4/2015 via Interscope) reveals a depth of human understanding and musical acumen that pierces the skin, coursing through to our innermost insecurities. It all starts with “Do You Remember,” James’ passionate debut single that topped the Hype Machine charts and reached #2 in Australia upon its release. Warm, pulsating and carefully calculated, “Do You Remember” is as appropriate a musical and lyrical entrance as any to James’ world.

Jarryd James sets the scene on “Do You Remember,” inviting us to rethink our relationships – how we approach them, how they exist, and how we look back on them. Addressing a former lover as well as himself, James recounts the trials and hardships at the relationship’s end before doubling back on them in recognition of the relationship as a whole. His message comes together in the chorus as James sings, “Don’t forget it was real. Do you remember the way it made you feel? Do you remember the things that it let you feel?” These are as much rhetorical questions as they are literal ones. James doesn’t say “Don’t look back in anger;” rather, he pays homage to the love’s fervor and existence. Deep, burning passions are not born overnight, and while they may fizzle in time, they are special nonetheless. In his opening number, Jarryd James respects that power:

When did we lose our way?
Easier to let it go.
So many, can’t tell anybody
Harder to let you know
Call me when you made up your mind but you won’t
Caught up in a way that you played my heart
Only love could ever hit this hard

Oh, don’t be scared about it
Don’t forget it was real.
Do you remember the way it made you feel?
Do you remember the things that it let you feel?

Listen: “Do You Remember” – Jarryd James

Yes, Jarryd James’ songs are “love” songs, if one were to cast a wide net over them as a whole. However, when examined on an individual basis, these tracks reveal the complex, multifaceted nature of interpersonal relationships; “This Time (Serious Symptoms, Simple Solutions)” finds James on a sinking ship (my metaphor, not his), noting how neither member of the relationship will get out unscathed or unhurt.

Love, our love, our love can’t make it now
Can’t we, can’t we, can’t save it now
Our love, our love, won’t make it now

No one really wins this time
No one really wins this time around
No one really wins this time
Nobody

We are often so overwhelmed by our own feelings, especially during something as personal as a breakup, that we forget to consider the fact that we are not alone in the suffering. Just as there are (at least) two sides to a relationship, there are always multiple sides to a breakup. The story isn’t always black-and-white, and it doesn’t necessarily go the way of “For No One” with a clear loser and victor. James expresses reminds us of this sobering reality with clever lyrical dancing around a slower musical number filled with strings and plenty of restraint.

Listen: “This Time (Serious Symptoms, Simple Solutions)” – Jarryd James

Somber though his subject matter may seem, Jarryd James’ music is full of life: Distinctive tones and vibrant beats act like reds and blues on his multicolored musical palette. “Give Me Something” offers a distinctively enticing electric guitar tone that’s as sexy as the beat itself. Reminiscent of Jack Garratt’s hit “Worry,” “Give Me Something” finds James establishing his own mix of sonic influences: The guitar glaze that covers the soulful rhythm, the tasteful organ pops that light up the ends of his phrases. What’s even more impressive is how James swaps his focus elements: On “Do You Remember,” it’s the upward-climbing string pattern that stands out and drives the song home. On “Sure Love,” it’s the hypnotic pulsing of James’ sinusoidal vocal rhythms.

Perhaps one of James’ most impressive moments, and certainly a major highlight of the EP, is James’ vocal duet with Julia Stone (of Angus & Julia Stone) on “Regardless,” a highly restrained song that turns the withheld into emotional energy. James’ pained, evocative vocals mix with Stone’s silky, sultry voice to create an alluring hybrid much akin to the vocal magic of Oh Wonder. Physical and emotional desires run deep in the EP’s closer as James finally gives in to the demons of unbridled passion.

Give me all of you, in the night I’m looking for a heart to be with my body
Everything you need at the right time
Looking for love regardless, you’re leaving
Give me all of you, in the night I’m looking for a heart to be with my body
Everything you need at the right time
Looking for love regardless, regardless

Listen: “Regardless (featuring Julia Stone)” – Jarryd James

Even on “Regardless,” the most Timberlake-like of this set of songs, James finds a way to insert depth and resonance. The duality of the song’s guy-girl unison singing splits their shared encounter in half: It becomes, as is reality, a shared experience in theory, with two similar, but different outlooks. James and Stone’s words are hot like lava and drip like honey, and the comprehensive intensity of the moment is magnified by the fluidity with which their voices intertwine.

Such is the beauty of Jarryd James and his musical debut: You don’t need a stadium-sized sound to create an out-of-body experience. James excels at doing more with less, combining electronic production with R&B and singer/songwriter influences to fill the space with intense outpourings of emotion and feeling. Vulnerable and raw yet lush and fully developed, Jarryd James’ EP is the intimate imprint of an artist ready to take on stages and audiences of any size.

Watch: “Do You Remember” – Jarryd James

:: JARRYD JAMES TOUR DATES ::

opening for Meg Myers:

9/30                    Tucson, AZ                   Club Congress
10/03                    Austin, TX                    Stubb’s BBQ
10/04                    Tulsa, OK                     Cain’s Ballroom
10/06                    Memphis, TN               1884 Lounge
10/07                    Little Rock, AR             Juanita’s Cantina
10/10                    New Orleans, LA         One Eyed Jacks
10/11                    Atlanta, GA                  The Masquerade – Hell Stage
10/13                    Nashville, TN               Mercy Lounge
10/15                    Cleveland, OH             Grog Shop
10/16                    Pittsburgh, PA              Altar Bar
10/17                    Toronto, ON                 Adelaide Hall
10/19                    Detroit, MI                   Shelter
10/20                    Cincinnati, OH             The Ballroom at The Taft
10/22                    Chicago, IL                   Metro
10/24                    Minneapolis, MN         Fine Line Music Café

opening for Tove Lo:

11/9                      Glasgow, Scotland      Queen Margaret Union
11/10                    Manchester, UK          Manchester Academy 2
11/12                    London, UK                  O2 Shepherds Bush Empire

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Get the Jarryd James on iTunes or listen on Spotify

The Breakdown

Mitch is the Editor-in-Chief of Atwood Magazine and a 2014 graduate from Tufts University, where he pursued his passions of music and psychology. He currently works at Universal Music Group in New York City. In his off hours, Mitch may be found songwriting, wandering about one of New York's many neighborhoods, or writing an article on your next favorite artist for Atwood. Mitch's words of wisdom to fellow musicians and music lovers are thus: Keep your eyes open and never stop exploring. No matter where you go, what you do or who you are with, you can always learn something new and inspire something amazing. Say hi here: mitch[at]atwoodmagazine[dot]com