Not Even in July

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2009's Not Even in July is the debut long-player from Canadian singer/songwriter Jesse Marchant, who performs under his initials, JBM. Though born and partly raised in Montreal, he wrote the album mostly while living in Los Angeles and recorded it in a church in Hudson, New York. With a sound in the vein of soft-spoken '70s singer/songwriters, comparisons to indie folk contemporaries Iron & Wine and Bon Iver are inevitable, though likening him to Ryan Adams or J. Tillman may be slightly more precise. If one can imagine an even more intimate, more low-key version of the majority of these artists' works, therein lies Not Even in July. JBM has a fuller, smoother, more heady vocal tone that distinguishes his voice from his peers, and an unprocessed, affecting delivery at the darker end of the emotional spectrum, befitting the introspective lyrics. After all, the opening words of the album are "Ain't no use in calling up your friends/Ain't no use in hiding in your bed/And ain't no use in standing on your head/'Cause no new sights can fill your loneliness" from "Cleo's Song." Loss is the inspiration for and main theme of Not Even in July, but though it's certainly an earnest listen, it's not all about wretchedness. "Cleo's Song" closes with "The darkness that envelops you/You have to let the light come in instead"). "Ambitions & War," probably the poppiest song on the record, turns at least partially outward and addresses societal greed and consumerism. The lyrics, while pensive, often seem to face reality, however challenging ("If I was older now I could give you advice/If I was younger now I’d still know how to smile"). The album is ultimately not so much gloomy as it is still. Generally speaking, there is very little range within each song, and though there is no shortage of instruments in play (guitars, piano, bass, drums, strings, harmonica, organ, and more, but never together on a single track), arrangements are sparse across the record; there aren't a ton of notes. Similarly, JBM's vocals periodically repeat syllables and pitches, which may serve rhythm or emphasis but also establish a baseline so that small deviations have a big effect. Essentially, Not Even in July is both vocally and musically subdued, but expressive. JBM isn't breaking any new ground here, but he does add an adept and genuine voice to the alternative singer/songwriter field.

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