Jay Malinowski – [Album]

Saturday, 13 February 2010

It's incredible how little it can take to augment the dominating impression that a musician leaves, there are instances wherein all that need be changed is the venue or arena in which the sound is captured. Take the work of singer Jay Malinowski for example; with Bedouin Soundclash, Malinowski has found fanfare producing densely arranged pop that crosses roots reggae with just the thinnest hair of punk. There has always been some heart in it, but it's still got the glossy sheen of pop and so it bows to the constraints of that genre; it has always been tight, succinct and clipped – at least to a certain degree. There's no fault in that, but where reggae requires a certain amount of organic growth to give it some authenticity, Bedouin Soundclash's music has always felt crowded and packed and very carefully produced which, it goes without saying, is contrary to the point. Therein lies the first and most apparent difference between any of Bedouin Soundclash's three (or four, depending on who you ask) albums and Malinowski's solo debut: while the size of the room in which Bright Lights & Bruises was recorded may not have changed, there's no one other than the singer in it this time  and the space opened up makes room for some soul to enter in with the heart.

In a room so empty and unadorned that listeners can actually hear the sound of the singer's voice reverberate off the wall opposite him, Jay Malinowski finds both himself and some genuine emotion (rather than Bedouin Soundclash's lip service to it) as he hammers out  more singer-songwriter-ly jones (while reggae still plays a huge factor, folk music and even English traditional also filter in) and takes a bit of the success Bedouin Soundclash has enjoyed for himself, alone.

The air on Bright Lights & Bruises is a very disarming one as , all alone (other instruments do sound their presence on the album, but no other musicians are credited), Malinowski treads out lightly with an acoustic guitar and confesses his misgivings about the dark place that he sees the world has become. Throughout songs including “Narceritos,” “How It Comes Is How It Goes,” “A Vacant Youth” and “Loving Hand,” scenes of desperation and departure (“Narceritos”). Bleak street life (“Love Is A Gun”), innocence lost (“Santa Monica”), confusion and sloth (“A Vacant Youth”) and hard lessons learned all add weight to the human experience outlined by this narrative. It would be wholly depressing too – were it not for the hopeful tenor of Malinowski's vocals which make it feel as if all the tragic images in the lyrics can (and will) be undone or overcome because the spirits of the characters he sees are so bright and so strong – even though they've been sorely tested. That sense is also what pulls listeners through the songs because, after it happens the first time in the aptly entitled “There's A Light,” they feel more comfortable and confident that, no matter what, the singer won't let them down and things will turn out alright.

The progression to 'alright' also threads through the music that accompanies the lyrics on Bright Lights & Bruises. The album opens in darkness – minor chords, hymnal sighs and “wind whipped hills, stripped to bone” – with the only glimmer of hope being the one in the singer's own voice but, even as “There's A Light” moves along, the world brightens up (if only to twilight) and the chord progressions open as more hearts get won. The going gets better through “Santa Monica” and “How It Comes Is How It Goes” as the landscape warms up and begins to include an increasing amount of genuine emotion so, even when there is a backslide into heartache (“Loving Hand”), it simply feels like a natural, but not insurmountable setback; the road is hard but the singer soldiers on undaunted and, by the time he reaches “Songs Never Sung,” Malinowski has reached his destination, where the sun is shining brightly. It's elating; it feels like a victory.

After an engaging journey like the one outlined on Bright Lights & Bruises, of course the question will be what happens next for Jay Malinowski. With Bedouin Soundclash still going strong, how will it all proceed? The best thing that could possibly happen to Bedouin Soundclash is that they take a cue from this record and give their song arrangements some air but, if that doesn't happen, at least fans can hope  the singer finds time to do more solo work soon. Bedouin Soundclash is the pop side of this equation and that's fine but, as Bright Lights & Bruises proves, Jay Malinowski has more to offer than he's been able to show before and this result is so good, it's guaranteed that he'll have fans waiting excitedly for more.



Bright Lights & Bruises comes out on February 16, 2010 on Pirates Blend/Sony Music. Pre-order it here on Amazon or here from Maple Music .

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