Crushing us with a punky beat while straddling a fairly light harmony with nothing more than his lead vocal, Jay Elle sounds both carefree and totally focused in the song “Insane,” one of my personal favorite cuts off of the new album Ride the Wave this summer. “Insane” features a melodic foundation that reminds me a lot of Overwhelming Colorfast in their heyday – sans the bludgeoning sonic presence of the guitars – but I don’t think that the majority of Ride the Wave could or should be deemed particularly grungy.
True, there’s an element of throwback alternative rock to the construction of “Angeling,” “Morning Rain,” and the potent title track in this all-new LP, but because of how personal a lyrical component we find in the aforementioned material, it’s difficult for me to view the narratives here as being born of anything more than a lot of honest feelings from a deeply gifted poet and songwriter. Elle has a swagger where his forerunners only had angst, and when he puts it to work for him in this album, it feels like he’s issuing a grander collection of catharsis than any of his contemporaries have in 2021.
“She’s So Fine” plays with a bluesy groove but inevitably sports more of a hybrid pop hook than it does anything on the edgier side of the aesthetical spectrum. “Miss Mess” follows a more experimental rhythm than any of the tracks surrounding it, and yet it segues the slinky “Want Me Bad” to the more reserved “Rainy Day” in a way I can only describe as divine and spot-on chills-inducing.
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There’s scarcely a moment within the twelve-song tracklist of Ride the Wave in which Jay Elle sounds like he’s trying to find his footing or establish who he is behind the microphone; truth be told, he’s really consistent in sounding in-tune with the story he’s crafting, no matter how cutting or specific a mood he’s looking to cultivate. Every weapon is at his disposal, but it’s the guitar he leans on the most, and after all, with a voice as simplistically charismatic as his is, he doesn’t need much more than the traditional Americana and pop/rock soloists to have paved the way for his career did.
From the slow-rolling “Who’s Camille” to the vigor of the rhythm in “Ride the Wave,” superb melodic moxie of “Tequila Kiss,” and feverish crunch of the retro “Better Luck Next Time,” Jay Elle is raising the bar for his scene and the players who would seek to make the rock n’ roll genre their own in the fabulously loaded Ride the Wave this August, and though I was only just recently turned onto his music through a pre-release of this record, something in my gut tells me that we’re going to be seeing and hearing a lot more from him in the next few years. This is a juggernaut of an LP that doesn’t ask questions nor apologize for any of its emotional output, which makes it an instant classic in my book for sure.