[Album Review] Jay Arner- Jay II
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Release Date:  June 17, 2016
Label: Mint Records / Midheaven

On his second full-length as a solo artist Jay Arner certainly harks back to the sounds of yesteryear. Call it a reimagining, and in some cases even a reimagining of a reimagining (e.g. a glam pop version of ‘60s swoon). It’s a form of distillation process, with the resultant essential elements being the beauty of vocal harmony and the pure joy of high energy pop.

Although it wasn’t called such at the time, yacht rock had its beginnings in the late ‘70s. The term is derogatory. This was a generation that was beginning to enjoy the comforts of middle class living. They were tired of hippie sincerity and frankly aghast at the viciousness of punk. So they embraced a sound that lacked edge or any hint of subversiveness (think Kenny Loggins and Christopher Cross). Unfortunately, it was also devoid of soul.

Yes, Arner does freely borrow from this genre, but he does so without any of that baby boomer baggage. What he gleans from it is a love of the vocal harmony that dates back to the Beatles and Beach Boys (OK, way earlier, in reality) and was polished and perfected in the ‘70s. He also approaches the music with genuine affection. When he and his cohorts dig into an analog synth passage or a glitter guitar solo they do so with the naive glee of a kid in a candy store.

It’s not complete pastiche, however. Arner and company sound way too contemporary and post-grunge for that. And there’s another thing. Although Arner isn’t cynical, there’s no doubt there’s a hint of smirk in the proceedings. One need only listen to the lyrics to figure that one out. On the twangy lounge number “Back to School”, in amongst the faux sincerity about fitting in, Arner croons, “Fuck all the rules/Feels like I went back to school”. Again in “Crystal Ball”, as he’s musing about the future, comes the line, “Still gotta go day to day/and your job’s so shitty/do you ever wanna move away to a different city?”. So, as much as he may have respect for the music he is evoking, but he does so with a definite sense of humour.

But, you know what, forget all of this. Without question, ‘Jay II’ can be enjoyed for the infectious, summery, carefree music that it is. Go for it. Yep, just grab your beach towel and dive right in.