Northampton-based singer-songwriter Jake Klar has undergone a metamorphosis from an acoustic driven folk artist to an alternative rock-poet who fuses psychedelic instrumentation with his knack for lyrical storytelling on his newest record, Until the Wild Fire Become Paradise, released on Oct. 20.
Klar’s newest album sounds like all the best parts of The Basement Tapes era Bob Dylan, shoegaze rock a la Mazzy Star, and the alt-country stylings of Wilco, but with a penchant for rugged storytelling, of all the highs and lows that life on the road has to offer.
Until the Wild Fire Becomes Paradise was inspired by Klar’s more than two year journey across the Americas, from taking a greyhound bus from the British Columbia coast down to Los Angeles, as well as his experiences in Austin, Brooklyn, and hazy ramblings in Buenos Aires.
What really makes this record shine is Klar’s backing band, consisting of Max Wareham (bass), Joel Helander (keys), and Karl Helander (drums). The rhythm section is a focused force of raw power, while the keys are lustrous and make the songs sound epic. Klar’s guitarwork is also exceptional; he writes earworm riffs that oftentimes steal the show.
The record opens with a jangly chorus of glistening electric guitars on “Eleanor,” a grungy story about hitting rock bottom and reconciling one’s own personal demons.
“She hit the floor like a bottle broken over the bar/ She had a mouth like the front end of a moving car/,” Klar sings with a solemn heaviness.
“Oo La La’ is a jazz-tinged song that is reminiscent of Blood on the Tracks era Dylan and Van Morrison’s Moondance. It’s a song with a bittersweet melody that weaves imagery of lonesomeness right out of the songbook of Hank Williams. This is a song about being at a crossroads in one’s life; being stuck without any idea how to return to a sense of normalcy.
“Lately these Saturdays/ My answers all split up in two/ Everything I think I do right seems to make me a fool,” Klar croons with restlessness and a hint of despair.
“Rosy,” which was co-written with drummer Karl Helander, starts off with a delicate distorted guitar blending with chime-like keyboard lines, before evolving into a pull-on-your-heartstrings rock ballad about a love turned sour. “Come on, Rosy/ I never said it like that/ You changed the story to better face your facts/ Cause all I’m asking for you to do/ Is not make your mind up.”
“Ohio 1:32 am” features acoustic guitars accompanied with a web of reverb infused high pitch notes like something you might hear on Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon. It’s more Americana than some of the other songs on the record and tells a story about a midnight voyage and a dark night of the soul without any clear answer.
“And the killer’s still roaming sleepless/ Whose afraid to be the one locks the door/ What about love keeping?/ What about right and wrong?/ Who’s worried about the stars?”
“Only A Rose” is soulful song with takes with instrumentation that’s Motown with art rock credentials that embraces a poetic sensibility from the likes of Leonard Cohen.
“Only a rose/ That I dug up for my darling/ Who burned up in Harlem/ In a hot air balloon/ Everything’s all right/ Till the night comes in limping/ Bumping and chipping/ Crawls into bed next to you.”
However, the chorus marks a dramatic shift in the song, which explodes into head-banging rock. Klar’s vocals become more strained with tension in the second verse, before the song ends in a supernova.
The poetic storytelling encapsulated in Klar’s new record is haunting and moves the spirit in ways that aren’t easily recognized right off the bat. His voice is smooth with a rustic quality to it, but often times his delivery is muddy and it can be hard to make out the lyrics.
Until the Wild Fire Become Paradise is an intimate album that showcases Klar’s skills as an ever evolving artist. It’s a slow burn of a record that demands repeated listening to understand the meaning behind the songs, but with which most people can identify with on the first listen. It’s artsy, but catchy enough to be played to a bar crowd without any raised eyebrows.
To listen to or purchase Until the Wild Fire Becomes Paradise visit jakeklar.bandcamp.com/album/until-the-wild-fire-becomes-paradise
Chris Goudreau can be reached at email@example.com.