Friday, August 19, 2011

Album Review: Jonathan Jones - Community Group

In the midst of our frenzy to find the new, fresh, and up and coming acts, it's always refreshing to come across an album like Jonathan Jones' second solo album Community Group. It would probably be generous to call Jonathan Jones any kind of musical legend, but he is comparatively a music industry veteran and it shows on Community Group. The most recent effort by the former Waking Ashland and We Shot the Moon frontman Jones' is a breath of fresh air—Jones lets go of any need to prove himself or cater to anyone but himself, making Community Group honest, unpretentious, and charming.  Community Group is a fresh faced album that seems to come directly out of Jones' simple desire just to make music. Jones leaves behind entirely the emo/rock sound of the now defunct Waking Ashland in favor of an effervescent pop sound. Simple singer songwriter alt/pop songs aren't really in vogue these days, but Community Group is a surprisingly endearing album that should appeal to anyone interested in good songwriting and catchy summer melodies.

Jones' vocals flavor the entire album, tying together ten songs that explore various instrumentations and musical styles with their boyish imperfection. The vocals are so down to earth that it's easy to miss the fact that they're getting a full symphonic treatment on "East Coast Feelings" and a comic pop/rock touch on "Hey Andy."  In the process of attempting to choose a favorite song, I concluded that nearly every track is both excellent and individual.  The slow, frenetic verses of “the Living Dead,” the bouncing instrumentation of “Duracell,” and the background humming in “Brand New Eyes” are some of the memorable highlights in an album of exceptional songs.

Just as Jones' vocals are free of any affectation or studio slick, the album's lyrics are honest and pragmatic. "Hey Andy" is a tongue in cheek plea to the titular Andy to start a band, "Your mom is gonna understand/ When you trade in your car to buy a vintage guitar/ We'll be so big in Japan." Jones expands on these conversational lyrics to a sweet story telling style on the title track and even the album's sentimental ballads, "My Faith" and "Morning Light," deal with universal emotional ideas without sounding cliche.

Community Group doesn’t shatter any previous unreached boundaries of musical invention, but it’s an album that will comfortable work its way under any listener’s skin.  It is an exceptionally wholesome album—even though many of the songs lament choices or mistakes, the album effuses hope and the self-possession of an album that turned out exactly how it was meant to.  

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