Under The Radar: JAWS’ Be Slowly

Every Friday, thousands of new records hit the shelves. Every day, even more used records are unearthed from basements, taken down from attics, and brought into Mills Record Company. With all this physical music pouring into the world, some gems can get lost. In “Under The Radar,” I’ll shine a light on an album that may have been missed. In this segment, JAWS‘ 2014 release, Be Slowly, will be in the spotlight.

Be Slowly is an unflinching indie pop romp. The album’s songs unwind with an ear for structure and an eye on production. From start to finish, the record is slick and pitch perfect. That said, Be Slowly, while produced, doesn’t lose its sense of rawness. Hints of DIIV, The Smiths, Foals, and Wild Nothing peek out from under the album’s surface. Despite this range of aesthetics (or perhaps because of it), JAWS has made something that is more than its parts–an album that is as fun on the micro- and macro-levels.

The album begins with “Time.” The song’s synthetic swells and ringing is rigged to a subtle but driving beat while its bass and guitar trade licks. The layering of these parts create a soundscape that is simultaneously dense and moody and innately danceable.

This tonal juxtaposition (brooding progressions held in place by syncopated rhythms) runs throughout the album, giving Be Slowly an expansive feel. The album’s instrumentals come in waves–breaking and retreating to give each track a pull that is undeniable. Combining this with reverb-kissed vocals, JAWS has made an album that, while mired in indie pop and dreampop revival, stands out as an example of beautiful songwriting. The songs that comprise the album work well to stay in their moments without overstaying their melodies. Again and again, JAWS finds the perfect formula for building into and tearing away from their catchy melodies.

And one of the catchiest tunes of the album is “Think Too Much, Feel Too Little.” Built from bass grooves and guitar glitter, the track holds together as an example on how indie pop should sound. The song’s ebb and flow gives it a tension–as one melody ends another washes seamlessly into its place. “Think Too Much, Feel Too Little” feels surprisingly light despite the hooks that infest the song’s structure. Truly, there is no dead space in the song.

“Think Too Much, Feel Too Little” transitions into “Filth” with an ease that is as natural as breathing. And this attention to the inter-track connections makes Be Slowly not just an album of incredibly catchy songs, but an incredibly catchy album itself. Whether Be Slowly is listened to front to back or a few tracks at a time, the attention to detail of how the album was constructed is both arrestingly beautiful and seemingly effortless.

And this feeling of effortlessness pervades the record. Listening to Be Slowly, it is easy to be consumed by its thick washes of sound. They pull you under; they toss you about their currents. Part of JAWS’ power comes from the band’s ability to distill complex tonalities into a single harmony. This power reaches a fever pitch in the end track, “NYE.” Large and enveloping, “NYE” is the perfect conclusion to an album that is well-crafted without losing its rawness.

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