When I first heard of Jake Allen, I heard that this musical protégé, a young fellah from Michigan was making a name for himself plucking the guitar like Andy McPhee. His sophomore album, Etherica was full of jazz, multi-layered orchestrations and music bands far more complex than one would imagine from such a young soul. Let’s face it, too, Michigan is known for its assembly line of rockers and of course Motown. Allen still rocks – just in a different way. His new album Deviant Motions is top of mind.
Featuring 14 tracks – yes, 14, Allen showcases himself as an emerging artist holding different cards for different genres. According to his Facebook page, one of the bands he also likes is Nine Inch Nails. Trent Reznor has the seedy New Orleans and industrial rock vibe going for him, while Allen tones that down and creates moving emotions in each of the 14 songs. He’s retro without sounding like you’re stuck in the 80s (which wouldn’t be a bad thing? Right?).
Some of the standouts are “ Scorpio,” “Imprismed,” “Troubadorial,” “A Dream That Lingers” and “Detour.” The other tracks (“The Picture,” “Bridges,” “If You Fall Apart,” “The End of Us,” “A Dream,” “Drowning In A Shallow Paradigm,” “Dust And Spider Webs,” “Lascivious” and “Still”) have their own merit, and charm, but don’t spotlight Allen’s subtle emotion and handy work in quite the same light.
“Scorpio” just feels free. It reminds me of being sun kissed. It’s a great song to add to your summer playlist. “Imprismd” also feels light and lush. It paints such a bold picture. It straddles the synthesizer vibe and rock and roll trek nicely.
“A Dream That Lingers” and “Detour” both have you holding onto their sounds for many hours. Well, duh, they linger. There’s something about Allen’s voice that makes you feel warm, without rubbing you the wrong way. He doesn’t suffocate you with the words and music beds. He’s a background player, but at the same time, he grows on you.
“Detour” had me from the first note. It’s not much like the other tracks and it while it still felt like Allen at its core, he channeled new energy into his arsenal. His masterful guitar work melts in your heart and takes you to a far off place in your mind. You really feel it.
The final verdict: Allen is a force to be reckoned with. He can compete with the likes of Sean Mendes, Ed Sheeran, Passenger, Charlie Puth, X Ambassadors – and a slew of others on pop radio. He has the song power and the charm on his side. Let me reiterate – the guy can sing. He’s no slouch on the guitar either. Deviant Motions is a great collection of songs – all 14 of them are rich in musicality and flavor.