Paul Jacks’ latest solo offering Amphibious features nine songs cut from the same cloth. The two-plus decade long songwriting veteran isn’t content with repeating variations on a theme, however, though the lyrics share common themes drawing from Jacks’ life. Obvious autobiographical concerns aren’t too obscure, however, but instead, achieve a level of universality that allows any listener access into his world. Audiences will connect with this material.
“If I Were a Better Man” shows his vulnerability. We’ll often return to this side of Jacks’ character, but he never overdoes the ethereal touch. The musical arrangement introduces us to Jacks’ style for the release – a combination of light rock arrangements, a focus on melody, and orchestration via keyboards and/or quasi-classical overtones. It’s a unique hybrid of psychedelic-tinged pop, fundamental songwriting, and orchestral influences.
“Left in a Haste” keeps that ball rolling. Jacks turns up the pace for the album’s third song without sacrificing meaning; his ability for alternating between the album’s slower tracks and faster numbers expands Amphibious’ dimensions. There’s less lyrical substance here than we hear from the album opener, but “Left in a Haste” boasts the same distinctive language.
It is a different matter, however, with “Die for Your Love”. The slightly mournful quasi-ballad benefits from precise language without spelling things out entirely for listeners. He marries emotion and melody in a seamless package without ever favoring one side of the ledger over the other and the length is ideal. Jacks’ focus on crafting condensed yet effective songs serves him well.
“That Girl” runs wide open after a brief string laden introduction. The stripped down melodicism is difficult to ignore but never so skeletal that listeners struggle to find anything to latch onto. Clear musical ideas drive each of Amphibious’ songs. His lyrical focus on “relationship songs” isn’t unwavering, there’s ample self-reflection found in these tracks, and he provides a fresh take on the tried and true subject matter.
The song “Walk on Five” has one of the album’s sleeper vocal melodies. Despite his breathy emotive voice, Jacks shows himself capable of generating memorable energy. It is always tempered, however, with a notable degree of artistry. You can hear Jacks holding back for effect though the effect is never studied. Guitar fueled flourishes punctuate the opening of “My Love Has to Ask” before the song settles into a vocal heavy pop beat. It has a lightly rambunctious air softened by arguably one of the album’s finest vocal arrangements.
Amphibious gains a lot from producer Alex Newport’s contributions. It sounds like an album where Jacks knew the sound he chased from the beginning and Newport’s input helps realize those artistic goals. It’s a testament to his abiding creativity, as well. Jacks is over two decades into his performing and recording career, but the wear and tear is minimal and his inspiration runs at a high level. He’s hit an impressive creative stride with this new solo album and there’s no sign of his imaginative energies dimming. He’s burning brighter than ever.
We do music reviews for Independent Artists and Publicists.