Oh dearest reader, come with me on a journey in our minds, back to the distant past of 2018. Back when we were able to actually do shit and the words ‘social-distancing’ had never even passed the lips of so much as a single soul. It was a great year for music too, with absolutely incredible releases from Father John Misty, Cosmo Sheldrake, Daniel Blumberg, Ghost and a debut album from a certain Texan musician by the name of Darren Jessee. The latter came in the form of ‘The Jane, Room 217‘ and delivered an absolutely astounding listening experience, managing to sound raw and introspective, yet deeply serene, packed full of beautiful orchestration that paired beautifully with it’s creators sensitive vocal timbres and delicately played acoustic guitar. It was worth every single one of the five stars I gave it at the time of it’s review, which I still stand by to this day.
So imagine how excited I’ve been since the announcement of a second album from the former Ben Folds Five drummer. I was ready to be taken away on a beauty stained journey across one mans soul once more. What I actually went through felt more like a casual stroll along a familiar path; inoffensive, but lacking the excitement and bare bones emotional journey of it’s predecessor.
Opening up with ‘Dead Weight‘, things kick off an entirely inoffensive start, pairing middlingly down tempo strumming and a very pretty, fairly unadventurous orchestral backing. It’s certainly a pleasant start to the proceedings, but feels lacking in power. However, even this early on it’s worth noticing that this is a familiar theme throughout the roughly thirty-eight minute listening experience. As the album plays through songs like ‘Cape Elizabeth‘, ‘Never Next Time‘ and ‘Letdown‘ more of the same is delivered, but feels distinctly lacking compared to ‘The Jane...’. They make for a perfectly pleasant listen, but lacks both the beauty and comparative rawness of Jessee’s previous work. In fact, it’s safe to say that ‘Remover‘ feels a little more over-produced than it predecessor, which takes away some of the sparkle for more of a dull shine. It’s not offensive, but feels almost too safe?
By the time we reach the album’s mid-point, each songs seems to meld into the next, with little differentiation between. There’s no sense of actively moving forward through the ten tracks, but more of a sense of meandering along at a casual pace. There isn’t anything wrong with a casual stroll, but it’s certainly a step away from a beautiful hike along hillsides overlooking the most stunning views imaginable.
There are moments that seem to begin to promise something a little more adventurous and stirring. The subtle shifts in dynamics throughout ‘I Don’t Believe In You‘ move slightly away from the low-mid-tempo template of safety and the opening statement of ‘Along The Outskirts‘ gives the impression that a slightly more intense experience is coming, which it does to a limited extent, but seems to finish before it really feels like it’s even begun properly. In fact, this happens on a few occasions through the album, but is most noticeable on the closing number, ‘Getting Back To It Now‘. It’s a little fizzle out to a sparkler that lit up perfectly functionally, but never really illuminated the room (this may possibly be a bad analogy. Please don’t use sparklers or any other form of firework indoors please). These final minutes hold an interesting depth than the rest of the album and, on any other release, would be a really beautiful closing statement, but after the previous nine creations, they just feel a little lost at sea.
To summarise, ‘Remover’ is not a bad album by any means. It’s a perfectly pleasant listen that would make for a great soundtrack for a winter walk through the park (socially distanced if you’re reading this at the time of writing, of course) or a peaceful drive somewhere pleasant. It would be great for a casual evening listen or for setting the atmosphere for a lovely dinner party. However, Jessee’s previous album was perfect for all of those too, but held a lot more complexity and depth that could command your attention and simply demand a deeper listening experience. Much of what is on offer here feels written for mainstream easy listening radio success and a little too obviously so, which doesn’t detract from the overall experience at all, but does make that experience comparatively lacking to what came before.
Overall, this is an album that I had no problem’s listening to and will more than likely still find it’s way into my record collection in time, but hasn’t really made much of an impact in the long run.