After two albums under his initials, JBM, Jesse Marchant returns with an eponymous 2014 release that proves the rebranding to be largely in name only. The record does, however, display a notable continuing evolution toward the more outward-projecting and electric. While fans will be relieved that he's still the raw, low-key, and wholly nonabrasive singer/songwriter they know, with drummer Jason Lawrence's presence conspicuous on most tracks Marchant delves into huskier, more rock-leaning arrangements that would bear shopping-center speaker play. His buttery voice, while perfectly suited for the intimate serenades of previous releases, holds up impressively well to the few indie rock jams here, such as "In the Sands/Amelia." Such tracks won't alienate most longtime listeners; it's a gentle shift, not a reboot. He's exhibited this more forceful character before, such as on Stray Ashes' "Only Now," he's used drums before if less vitally, and there are still earnest, hushed ballads delivered by the signature Marchant mumble. The album kicks off with "Words Underlined," consisting mostly of a repeated four-bar pattern, hypnotic and approachable, with lyrics contemplating ruined relationships and isolation. It reassures us that JBM has not been forsaken. The album then dives into electric guitar effects, drums, and grooves on "All Your Promise," establishing a dichotomy that cycles throughout between moody indie rock ("The Road Is Dark & Snowed") and folky, solemn stillness ("Snow Chicago"), in some cases within the same song. It all blends into one connected entity with shepherding by steady vocals and unwavering sincerity. Marchant has a quality to his songwriting that bridges indie rock and '70s singer/songwriters, and is still intact and even all-encompassing. While the record has a wider scope and pushes his sound in a more robust direction, his delivery, lyrics characterized by thoughtful introspection, and a maintained level of world-weary intensity make this a quintessential JBM work, trademarks that may now be referred to as "so Jesse."
AllMusic Review by Marcy Donelson