From the jittery, palm-muted textures that greet us in “Johnny Rogers” to the glittery, soft harmonies that slowly disappear as “Goodbye” fades into the mist, Jeremy Rice’s debut album, Jeremy Rice and the Legendary Fist of Takinawa, is an awfully tough LP to put down once listeners embrace its myriad of melodic qualities, the most sterling of which might well be Rice’s own singing. Even in the ripping metallic piece “The Legendary Fist of Takinawa,” it’s his vocal that cuts through the distorted riff work with even more intensity than the bassline does. With a voice like his, Jeremy Rice doesn’t have to do much to impress in this stellar pop fantasy.
An acoustic guitar volley adorned with Dylan-style crooning beckons us closer to the poetic side of our singer’s talents in “Dream Tonight,” and next to the British-flavored piano pop of “Beleev,” it serves as one of the more breathtakingly unfanciful performances on the record. Rice swings harder in the latter than he does anywhere else on Jeremy Rice and the Legendary Fist of Takinawa, but I feel like it’s the acoustic balladry of the former that makes a bigger emotional and artistic impact of the two compositions.
Reggae-influenced fretwork channels shades of an 80’s hybrid pop as “Underneath the Ground” sinks its long hook into our chest midway through the tracklist, and along with its neighbor “Nme,” it creates a great segue from the simplistic first half of the LP and the more complex, intricately designed second. Personally I would have selected “Nme” as the first release from Jeremy Rice and the Legendary Fist of Takinawa over the equally alluring “Arriianne,” primarily because it’s a somewhat more involved listen that forces Rice to flex some real muscle behind the mic. They go well together on the record regardless, and would probably make for a good mashup live.
The main reason why people have been discussing Jeremy Rice and the Legendary Fist of Takinawa as much as they have been lately is rooted in the melodic throttling of the single “Somebody Like You,” and you needn’t give it more than a cursory examination to understand why. With a harmony that slowly but surely climbs a stairway into the heavens under the command of an anthemic lead vocal from Rice, it’s easily the crown jewel of the album and the best sampling of what this guy can do when there’s nothing holding him back. I hope to hear more like it in the future, and I doubt I’m the only critic saying so right now.