Jordan Burchel’s new album Vowel Sounds is not a typical sappy-pop, guy and his guitar album. This guy has a great voice, melodic guitar riffs, beautiful lyrics. A middle of the road, never too high, never too low mood in each song, but somehow there is a whimsical sun-dazed vibe to the album. classic alt-pop of a guy whole-heartedly spilling his thoughts out. The album is weighted by Jordan’s lyrical compositions that reflect life’s trickier notions of complex human-behavior, but never the cliché “life sucks” attitude, more so a reflection of the deeper inner-workings that often get looked over. That weight, however, is carried with the vibrant instrumentation of Burchel’s guitar and his collaborators adding just the right number of layers to create an intricately designed song structure composed of many simple elements.
The first track “Paper Face” has a descending guitar riff, catchy pop vocal melody, but has lyrics that speak of disenfranchisement with his social surroundings. Regardless of the lyrical notes of a rather fake world, the layers in the track give a feel of confidence in being able to look past those negative elements and pursue a level of being content “Why They Call You Blue” has a nice ambient opening, and lyrics that sound like they were sung under the breath of someone in an uncomfortable setting. Instead of Burchel’s guitar accompanying his vocals, there is a female voice that perfectly aligns with his during the chorus to give a universal application to the lyrics. The most interesting track on the album is titled, “Lilymoore Pts. 1&2.” It sounds like Robert Smith and Conor Oberst wrote this one, creating a nice crossover of modern acoustic-pop with an essence of 80’s pop music. There is an aquatic reverberation on the guitar, an upbeat strum on the acoustic paired to the drumline. Although the lyrics are somewhat depressing, this is the brightest and most upbeat feeling track.
All in all, this is a boardwalk-pop album that at first glance would come off as a ploy to simply create pop-hits for social admiration’s sake, but there is more to it than that. It has alternative elements embedded within its otherwise simple pop structure that holds to some artistic integrity, and it has aesthetics that are uncommonly applied by top pop artists. Vowel Sounds has the production quality to be on the radio, and meets the pop criteria to be accepted amongst today’s acoustic pop, but is doesn’t go overboard to the point to be just another mind-numbing listen.