Indie always breeds diversity, and that’s exactly the label with which singer-songwriter and part-time producer JMSN’s been branded. And yet–at first listen–you’ll swear you’ve heard him somewhere before. That’s because although JMSN remains under the ‘alternative’ tagline, he’s got too many musical influences in his system to squeeze him into anything else.
The Albanian-American’s self-titled album is a low-key release, and so far, overlooked– perhaps because he sounds more like an amalgamation of everyone running the musical gamut than strictly the latest shaggy-haired, misfit shoegazer that indie’s looking for. Or the overly-sexual, lyrical libertine that R&B’s looking for. Or even the snooty newcomer electronic music wants. Because he’s really none of those.
JMSN sounds like the best essences of every genre, and this multi-music parenthood is what makes him and his album difficult to classify; you can spot some R&B in his smoky, Timberlake-esque falsetto, some dark, house music borrowings in the stuttering, synth-souled “Street Sweeper”, and the workings of run-of-the-mill, slow pop (“Foolin”). But don’t get me wrong, this patchwork is precisely what gives him such smoothness.
In Frank Sinatra-style, the consistently titled “My Way” intros JMSN with some life retrospection; “I know I made so many mistakes, most of the time refused to change/ But through the love and all the pain, I did things my way…”. Certainly, the singer’s career has formed a zig-zagged path; from direct band membership to behind-the-scenes mixing-mastering to emergence as a solo artist, JMSN’s had to do it ‘his way’.
Tracks like “Addicted” are when JMSN’s blue-eyed soul flavor emerges; a prior single release via SoundCloud, the song reverberates with the singer’s wispy echoes over a careening, bass-pattered drum machine beat. Whether his addiction in question regards love or perfecting his art, we don’t know; JMSN keeps the hook pretty vague; (“It’s a quarter to 9, still on my grind/ It’s all on my mind, cause I’m so addicted…”). The track is succeeded by its more intoxicated, chopped-and-screwed sequel, (“Addicted Pt. 2”).
“Ocean” is almost made for mental vacation, the swallowing trance beat a complement to JMSN’s personal drifting off–and a soft-voiced female speaking French after the singer’s few words fade out.
JMSN seems to pull of instrumental discombobulation well, especially when he pairs it with Weeknd-appropriate darkness; for instance, on “Ends (Money)”, he gloomily rambles “Money doesn’t grow on trees”, but echoes the phrase in at least ten different ways, some of them distorted, others staggered with synthesizer bleeps, kick-drums, harmony, etc.
JMSN’s third studio album is a more comfortable, expressive installment to his prior EPs; it fits in, instrumentally, when placed next to the daydream-y Priscilla and Pilaje albums, but wears a little more emotion on its sleeve. One fact remains, however, and that’s that JMSN–and his sound–can’t be compartmentalized.
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