This is a lovely album. It’s rare to listen to something full of hope and humanity without having it hamstrung with pomposity or overproduction. There’s a surfeit of surfaces and the operand is that ‘we’ll slide down the surface of things’, like U2 implored, po-faced, in ‘Mysterious Ways’ and Bret Easton Ellis satirised in ‘Glamorama’. So where do we go from here?
Well, the biography on the website gives nothing away. The details meander, sketching in an apparently itinerant early career and now this, a long-awaiting debut album. Poems and graffiti and some time America are alluded to. But no facts.
Beginning with title track ‘Supernatural’, Jont showcases a beautiful voice, warm and with an impressive range and timbre. The songs are mostly mellow constructions that have obviously been built up around acoustic renditions. They’re soaked in performance revision, all the fat and the otiosity gone.
That isn’t the main point. Songs like ‘Don’t Waste All Your Tears’, ‘Another Door Closes’ and ‘House of Dreaming’ are strewn with pointers towards hope and a sense of coming to terms with the curves that life throws at you. ‘It’s just nature’s way of saying/you must let go’ is a simple line, but rather than turn the cynicism of the times against it, one approach is to look at it and accept that pop music these days is full of people refusing to accept that piece of advice. It’s full of people who advocate the pushing and the striving, which can be good and can help you achieve, sure, but when applied in huge gloss-coats to every facet of your life will lead you to insanity. It’s the striving in r ’n’ b and hip hop towards a lifestyle fuelled by credit, to a partner that is that next notch up from your last one, the striving in pop towards an image that’s skinnier and whiter and more blonde than the next person and faster and smarter and more heartless than the poor sap you’re stabbing in the back.
The escapism in pop music has always been there but the nouveau pushy and relentless drive to be better than the Jones and to be all about the Benjamins has to be countered from time to time; this is a lovely antidote to that choke-hold. It isn’t perfect and in places there will be comparisons with the slew of similar artists – James Blunt, Jack Johnson and so on. But this album is in a long tradition and will necessarily have stable mates; what is important is that when listening to it, especially on the loose, charming and escapist ‘House of Dreaming’, the momentum is to betterment of approach rather than just getting more bitches, blunts and Botox, being dressed by Armani and produced by Timbaland. One complaint might be that tracks like ‘Another World’ seem to take this selling point and mould it to FM radio play, to rotation on Virgin and Heart. It’ll be the big trial here to keep true to the best in this album – and bring the fans to it – rather than obsequious pandering to the sound of the cash register.