James & Paul-Tabula Rasa | Contemporary Rosetta Stone
Bonnie & Clyde. Beavis & Butthead. Logan Pau… You get it. The best things are a dynamic duo. They offset each other, are maybe contrasts or accents of the same. James & Paul are no different. They are prolific musicians who are endlessly creative. After their album last year called On my Way, they release Tabula Rasa this year. Is it any good? You’ll know within this article, nobody writes a two parter review.
Tabula Rasa is a love letter from James & Paul to all the music they love. Modern Romance shows their powerful chemistry with gifted harmonics that would make a seasoned choir jealous. It moves into an indie rock song, something that can dominate impartial radio stations all over. Blinded is the second track, with an Eastern opening but a pop explosion for the track. It is undoubtedly something you want to hear, similar to updates on a true crime series.
Either it’s that Robert Johnson kind of deal or these guys shuffle through a lot of crap to find their best tracks. Their songs are short, simple melodies that anybody can connect with. The lyrics? Feel like they have a colonoscopy to your soul. Thematic pieces like Solitude bring out a Bon Iver type for a second, or an upgraded Simon & Garfunkel duo. Can’t believe I didn’t include this reference in the first paragraph.
Playing their part through art
The piano and guitars find the spaces within each others melodies, just like James & Paul. The mellow tracks are a definite addition to your long drive playlist, and the quicker ones must simply go to your everyday commute playlist. If you work from home, lucky you. Found You dips into Elvis’ pre-mind loss suit and gives us a swinging track. The higher vocals giving seconds is an enriching sound, it fills the void yet gives a special highlight to the track.
Another beautiful number is Freeze, where their layering is near perfect. This seamless transition between their voices reminds you that you will probably never be this good. Now that the rhythm set into a mellow tempo, they amp is back up with Feels Like. An upbeat track with some nice distortion, but nothing too crazy. Strings add the spice the track requires as well. WAYCA is the next single, and I don’t have any idea what that is an abbreviation for. Here vocals are switched to female for a simple duet, Should have listened to more of the track. When Are You Coming Around. A great number, changing feel and giving the listeners a palette cleanser.
A stroke-of genius
Not that we needed any, this is a joyous set of songs we can hear any time. Skyscraper Highs has a punk tracks tempo. It is far from that. However, it has the same amount of infectious fun. They’re skipping through genres like incidents in the Depp-Heard trial. Entertaining and great. Ten Thousand Miles is another ballad feel track. With fingerstyle, the lightness and breeziness in the track is achieved time and again.
In case you started nodding off, Stay Awake is here. With more distortion and a quicker tempo overall, this track is what balances the themes they explore, art exploration wise. Title track comes next, and it is surprisingly short for the kind of sound they explored. It sounds like a bonus in this album, and combines some unlikely elements of music to create an intriguing number. Please Just… has the disco heart we’ve wanted to dance to. James & Paul hear you.
With synths and a 80s pop beat, the track descends into a fun track to hear and swing your hips to. It gets funky and flavourful, reminding us how ridiculously talented these guys are. The penultimate track might be The End, and we’re looking at Pet Sounds level quality album here. Both are Brian Wilson, and a status of genius has been achieved.
Nailed it till the end
Using only instrumental guitars and balanced vocals echoing in the background, it becomes a warm closer of a track that is an emotional goodbye. A prelude to the outro of sorts. A New Dawn closes out the album with a peek at nature. The chirping birds set a precedent for the stringed wonder to be a magical spine to this track. Seconds with the female vocals sounds extraordinary. Something special has been created in this indie haven.
No, it is not fair that they are this close to perfect for an album. No, it isn’t fair that they are handsome gentlemen as well as hardworking/talented musicians. (This seems to be a debate right now, consider me on the fence). This is close to a greatest hits album a washed out band releases as some ridiculous box set. Concert picks, nose rings used by the band and drum sticks from the time the drummer got wasted. However, this album is minus all that noise. What they have compiled here is sumptuous music.
Not many of you have reached till this part of the article. Everything I have said about how good this album is, is true. I will attest it to be one of the best I’ve reviewed this year. Pure effort has been translated to a fantastic track. We are fortunate to live in a time when the leader of the free world falls off his cycle. And James & Paul make music for the heavens.