Photo by Chris Squier
It’s been close to nine months since we’ve heard new material from local electronic group Emerson Jay. That 5-song release, LOUIE, took home “EP of the Year” at our Best of 2016 Awards in February. But their brand new single, “Alright,” and its accompanying music video, prove that the band isn’t resting on their laurels. Far from it—the track demonstrates their growth and versatility, with construction that’s as careful as it is catchy.
It’s the same dazzling, intricate production that comes standard in EJ songs, but with a darker, swaggering twist. This song, occasionally brooding and consistently cool as hell, has a subdued, midtempo beat that pulses addictively, pulling you along. Other stylistic trademarks of the group are present, including a keen sense of when (and how) to build and retreat; words that are genuine, smart, and rhythmically interesting; and an intoxicating use of vocal layers, effects, and distortion. While all of these elements match the level of quality longtime listeners have come to expect, they’re applied here in a refreshing way to create a captivating new vibe. Simply put, this is Emerson Jay, 2.0.
Jared Gulden is the band’s primary creative force, writing the songs as well as providing lead vocals and synths. The lineup also includes Brandon Bates on guitar, Dan Evans on bass, and Pat Donovan on drums. The video was shot by Chris Cichra (of Nevada Color) and Ross Ribblett, and edited by Cichra as well.
The lyrics address a strong romantic connection that’s been strained, both by distance and by the speaker’s anxiety: “Now in this room, I feel out of place/I’m all locked up with enough to lay me down for several days/Eyes closed, I swear I can see your face/and I wonder why I have to hide with you tonight.” But he seems to be reassuring his subject that despite this, his feelings haven’t diminished: “But I’m alright, yeah, I’m alright.” The desire to reconnect is repeated throughout the track in lines like “I still care for you, baby,” “Now that somebody knows/I swear, I’m never putting out your glow,” and “Thinking about you’s what I like, it’s what I like.” Lyrically dense verses contrast the held out words (with additional layers and effects) in the prechorus and chorus. The instrumentals play into this dynamic accordingly—simpler, steadier riffs overall during the verses complement a frenzied up-and-down synth line that decorates the chorus. And, as previously mentioned, these builds and retreats are smooth and perfectly-timed, showing sharp attention to detail that lets you simply sit back and enjoy the ride.
The video alternates between shots of the band performing and of a leather-jacket-clad actress (Katie Holroyd.) Everything plays out against a simple, but effective, black background, which emphasizes the group’s trademark use of colorful lighting and smoke to help create their mood. This aesthetic perfectly matches the feel of the song. The lights are paired well with the instruments: from the band backlit by purple spotlights during the relatively sparse intro; to a steady pulsing, beat-matching front light at the end of the verses; to the even brighter, frantically moving and multicolored display in the chorus. This visual recreation of the song’s movement works quite well.
A decent chunk of the video features Gulden alone, staring at the camera straight on while he sings. This emphasizes the vulnerability and honesty of the words. Repeated cuts to Holroyd expressively lowering her eyes, throwing her head back to the beat, or staring ahead in a similar way create the effect of a conversation, as though Gulden is singing to her and she’s reacting to him. Cichra’s strong editing shines through in other ways, too. The occasional use of a TV interference effect highlights the imperfect connection articulated in the lyrics, and the motion of both the band and Holroyd is periodically slowed down during crucial musical moments. And the very last image of the video (which I won’t give away here; watch and find out!) gives closure to the song’s narrative without beating you over the head with it. It’s subtle and highly effective.
All this to say, the thought put into each aspect of the “Alright” song and video is obvious. That attention to detail, combined with passion and talent, is what sets Emerson Jay apart. Do yourself a favor and check it out below, or by clicking here.
The song is also available on iTunes and Spotify. Follow along with Emerson Jay on Facebook here.