It’s a very easy thing to compare (confuse) music to (for) the eternal feminine. Empirical evidence shows how music calms and comforts, lifts spirits and inspires emotion. How many soldiers have marched to their deaths to the beat of a drum? How many young men have fallen irredeemably in love with a young woman over the span of single song? Remember when you were just a little thing, and mamma would sing you to sleep? Music holds a powerful attraction for even the tone deaf, so imagine the relationship between a musician and music.
And ‘relationship,’ is the appropriate word here. Any fool can tell you shared intimacy isn’t necessarily a good thing. How many of your friends have you seen blindly following a love even though they know it’s not in their best interest? Humans are creatures of habit though, and sometimes the only way to break that sad codependent cycle is to up and leave town, move halfway across a continent and start over. That’s exactly what Jake Bellows did after fifteen years of fronting Omaha’s Neva Denova.
Now imagine that old love calling you up out of nowhere one day and the strength it takes to chat along casually pretending everything’s alright, there’s nothing weird going on, as if your heart beat hasn’t kicked into fight-or-flight BPM’s, like your mind isn’t reeling at possibilities. When that call came for Mr. Bellows he just couldn’t shake it, and his recent solo album, New Oceans, reveals to all he is an unrepentant sentimentalist.
The reunion was a whirlwind, a rushed but passionate affair whose offspring was conceived after a mere week of recording. And New Oceans, (odd name for a baby) looks like both it’s parents, it’s weak chin displays an underlying mope compliments of Mr. Bellows, yet shining blue eyes and a quickness to laughter that could only come from Neva’s side of the family.
Okay, okay, okay, enough with extended metaphors, New Oceans is a hard thing to pin down. The titular intro track combined with the solo project name inclines one to believe this album is a last shot by a musician at the end of his rope, but then track two comes along and blows the dust away. “All Right Now,” with its crunching hot lick guitar leads and a chorus that could be found on any modern rock radio station shows New Oceans duality of character. Third track, “You and Me,” returns to the mope, but its much more compassionate than the first offering. Mr. Bellows whispered baritone is utilized to great effect as a soothing, intimate, ‘Don’t think twice, it’s alright.’ reassurance. And then after the audience thinks it knows what’s going on, just to fuck with you the next track is an irreverent 1950’s slow jam sock hop about getting drunk with dad whose ‘Ooh’s and Aah’s’ back-up vocals and shimmering piano melody stand in stark contrast to the wicked distortion of a lead carried over the bridge. Skip the next mope track and you’re assaulted once again on “I Know You.” There’s nothing more sinister than jazz organ!
New Oceans is a quirky little gem disguised as another run of the mill offering. For every doom and gloom mid tempo weeper there’s an equal and opposite upbeat, sometimes straight out rocking counterbalance. Some might be quick to call New Oceans a sad bastard, but I prefer to think of it as a hip little lovechild.