Jamie T emerged in a time where he seemed to sound like the wave of other indie bands that emerged onto the radio waves in the mid to late noughties. He was so much more though, he had a genuine way of talking to teenagers and seemed to relate to many with his tales of the streets of London. Though five years isn’t too long, it’s given enough time for a generation of fans who listened to his music while being way too drunk, way too young, to grow up and for a new generation to then start listening to him. At his surprise set at Reading Festival this year, it was genuinely surprising to see an army of fans who would have been 16 at the time of his last release, and the 16 year olds now singing along to every word of every song. It was always his song writing skills that set him apart from the rest of the bands from the noughties and the five year gap has only made him more popular.
So now Jamie T returns after a five year gap, announced via a handwritten note saying that he’s going to do some tiny gigs. Then comes the announcement of an album, a string of singles and now we’re here. The first thing to note when listening to this album is that Jamie T took this time off for very personal reasons, and it shows on the record. Where his last album ‘Kings and Queens’ was packed full of upbeat songs with a few moments of reflection (‘Jilly Armeen’ and ‘Emily‘s Heart‘), this is the opposite. It’s a very melancholy album. He reportedly tried to write songs like his old self but it didn’t feel like him, it would’ve sounded like a copy of himself. Instead he took some advice that Damon Albarn gave him to ‘write from the heart’ and he has.
Songwriting wise, Jamie T is essentially the same in that his ability to write fantastic melodies trumps anything else. He also relies on the simple backbone of his instrumentation just like before as the lead single ’Don’t You Find’ jumps around on the same four chords it gives Jamie T freedom to throw in his many tricks such as the strings that appear frequently over this album. But where his song writing has changed is in the ways he will now connect with the kids that were once his fans that are now reaching adulthood. Where his first album was to do with him dealing with panic attacks this takes a look at heartbreak and isolation on this album in many different forms. On the opening song ‘Limits Lie’ and the song ‘Turn On The Light’ he explores the ways in which heartbreak can make you limit yourself, and the ways in which his brain functions when ‘you don’t like yourself’. Both songs build from gloomy verses into beautiful choruses, with ‘Limits Lie’ sounding like a more excited version of some of the songs off of Alex Turner’s ‘Submarine‘.
It isn’t all melancholy though as he gives diehard fans of the old material some more of his punky side to hang onto. The second single ‘Zombie’ is some good fun, even if it doesn’t match the standard of the other tracks on here, but the real treat from the more punky tracks are ‘Rabbit Hole’ and ‘Peter’. The former even sounds like it has some of his hip-hop influence in it, and is sung with his classic London slur all over it. Whereas ‘Peter’ has the most explosive, dirty chorus that he’s ever done. It’s a song about a man with a voice called Peter who is responsible for all of his nasty thoughts. These songs don’t kill the melancholia of the album they simply add to the album’s diversity without feeling out of place. It goes straight back into the slower songs afterwards with the folky ballad ‘Love Is Only a Heartbeat Away’ which is one of the happier down tempo songs on the album.
The album ends with ‘They Told Me It Rained’ which has Jamie singing the chorus to the song over and over into a brilliant crescendo. It then drops until we are left with just him singing ‘Just show me love’ over and over softly with a female voice beside him. The album then ends in a similar fashion to Bon Iver’s ‘For Emma, Forever Ago’ or Neutral Milk Hotel’s ‘In The Aeroplane Over The Sea’ as we hear him get off the chair and stop the recording. Those two albums were both recorded in a time of isolation and pain, this album is similar to that in a way. Although it may not be on the same level as those albums, for the fans who grew up listening to this man’s tales, it may be.