JayWood – Some Days EP Review

Captured Tracks – 2021

Coming as a debut in two senses, with this being Jeremy Haywood-Smith’s first major label release under Captured Tracks. And also being initially the first project that Haywood-Smith wrote and recorded, back in 2015. In our interview with him he said that due to the uncertainty of releasing new music at the moment he wanted to go back and revisit this project to bring it up to date with the current JayWood sound. And that is exactly what this EP stands as. It simultaneously brings JayWood’s early roots of bedroom pop and lo-fi recordings to a new refined and defined sound and showcases what’s next for this upcoming

The most major update is title track “Some Days” that now bolsters a super slick groove, undying beat and meticulously cool guitar lines. As each movement rolls past on this song you’re left in awe just how much magic is being layered on through the swirling soundscapes, it’s easy to get lost in the mystifying world that JayWood creates. Over a river of synthesisers and funk-infused bass lines Haywood-Smith looks on in hope for those better days, “I swear i’m not broken, I’m just a little bit lost, With a little guidance i’ll find the cause” he declares. It’s this juxtaposition of upbeat rhythm and tender lyrics that just adds another layer of brilliance to this sound. The original version of this track also gets added almost as a bonus at the end of the EP and its inspiring to see just how far Haywood-Smith has come from those raw early days. The tenderness of this is almost mirrored in “Dreams” as Haywood-Smith strips back the sound to incorporate only swaying guitars and slow plucked guitars. Paired with Haywood-Smith’s charming melodies, this track takes you into the clouds and guides you along the path of trying to finding hope.

Haywood-Smith’s psychedelia inspirations of UMO and Tame Impala come out in the track “Creep” through phaser smothered guitar lines and funk infused beats. There’s an underlying unease to this track that breaks out in short bursts of guitar riffs and synthesiser swirls but is carried by Haywood-Smith’s naturally cool vocal styles. The funk and jazz sound that Haywood-Smith is incorporating in this newfound sound makes a final appearance on “What You Do To Me”. It’s breezy, easy to listen to and will have you bopping your head along to its infatuating groove. Through subtle harmonies and a glorious ending breakdown Haywood-Smith finishes the EP as it started, impassioned and full of bravado. Keen ears will also hear a nod to a certain famous guitar solo by another fellow Canadian indie rocker.

The JayWood project is one that has continued to evolve from the very early lo-fi days, to his bedroom-pop and radio station inspired debut album Time. And now with this project Haywood-Smith has brought everything up to speed, building himself a diving board for both listeners to dive into his captivating world and himself to swim out into the ocean of sounds that are waiting for him to mould together.

Claud – Super Monster Album Review

Saddest Factory – 2021

This album is a debut in two aspects, being the first album from LA based bedroom-pop star Claud Mintz and also being the first release on Phoebe Bridgers‘ newly founded Saddest Factory Records, launched last October. Claud first gained attention for their woozy dream-pop infused “Wish You Were Gay” released back in 2019 followed by their Sideline Star EP released later in the year. Following on from the likes of fellow bedroom-pop stars Clairo and Beabadoobee, who have gained a loyal set of fans thanks to their intimate, yet sonically rewarding pop ballads. They now return with a coming of age album that is infused with heartbreak and yearning to be loved.

The album title refers to a drawing done by Daniel Johnston titled Claud And The Super Monster and this idea of a superhero and monster merged into one is something that Claud inhabits on this album. Everybody’s got the good and the bad within them, but ultimately they’re just trying to do their best. Claud spent most of their adolescence moving from city to city, the inevitable fallout that this had on personal relationships can be felt throughout this album. Over various moods of indie-pop tinged musings Claud tells the story of somebody clinging on to love when ultimately it may be doomed to fail. The opening line of the glittery opener “Overnight” tells this exact tale, “I fell in love like a fool overnight”. Claud has previously said that they “feel love really intensely” and you can hear every ounce of the love that Claud wants to give, especially on intimate moments like on the intoxicatingly catchy “Soft Spot” where they sing “Pull the covers over our short hair, Pretend like the city wasn’t there”. They’re not even afraid to put aside embarrassment and share unpolished anecdotes like on “Pepsi” as they sing “I hate that you told me to masturbate, Instead of comin’ over”.

Perhaps one of Claud’s strongest assets that is explored on this album is their ability to turn experiences into unapologetically catchy melodies. You only need to hear the chorus line of “In Or In -Between” once to have it stuck in your head for days. Even on softer moments like “This Town” the serenity of Claud’s vocals reign supreme above every other aspect of the track. Bathed in psychedelic infused textures, there’s a certain natural cool to Claud’s vocal stylings, never straining too hard but always hitting the sweet spot of momentary bliss, the like of which can be felt all over “Soft Spot”. And she even invokes some of the tendencies of pop’s super queen Taylor Swift on “Jordan”, through its country tinged ballad flow, it wouldn’t feel out of place on Swift’s Red album.

It’s not just the modern pop greats that Claud leans on for influence though. There’s also hints of early 2000’s pop-punk on the misogynist put-down “That’s Mr. Bitch To You”. And on “Guard Down” they infuse elements of post-disco, with the obnoxiously gratifying back and forth groove. There can be moments however where the influence and genre fusing can become slightly off-putting. Unfortunately this is found during the second verse of “Guard Down” where Claud’s faux-rap interlude takes you away from the sweet tendencies the rest of the track offers and almost borders on the line of parody. It’s clear that Claud was obviously just having fun whilst making these tracks, but that sometimes comes at the cost of losing the rawness of the songs sound.

As this album progresses you can at times feel Claud get too fixed into her comfort zone of short indie-centric, flanger-infused ballads. On penultimate track “Rocks At Your Window”, the melody and guitar passage is oozing in raw longing, however as this song is just about to reach a potentially powerful climax it fades out. There’s a glimpse of where the track could have gone on the first chorus, but instead it’s exchanged for a short fade out of swirling synthesisers. And on “Pepsi” the 80’s inspired bass line and synth pop soundscapes never really bring the song to any new grounds that can’t be heard elsewhere on the album. Claud’s vocal don’t even feel as inspired here, that hint of understated prowess just feels slightly missing. But this album does end on a strong conclusion however with “Falling With The Rain”, a track that features Shelly, a band compromised of Claud them self, Clairo and former Toast bandmate Josh Mehling. The power pop groove breathes new life into the end of the album and Claud’s natural flair returns with her juxtaposing lyrics of “In my head, I hang on by a thread” that backed with a swirl of uplifting and dance hall worth instrumentation. The super monster metaphor still runs true.

For a first outing Claud has certainly set the bar high for whatever may come next, a bare bones album full of honesty and unpolished tales of a life of love. But for now lets just enjoy the pop-centric grooves that Claud has brought us and try and find the super monster within ourselves as we listen.