by Stephen Koster
The last time I reviewed Jake Meeking’s music he was a solo musician. Fast forward a couple years and the new band, which uses Jake’s last name, is a three-piece. People who have listened to Jake’s solo work will hear similar sounds in Meeking, but with the spice of two new musicians (Glenn Hampson on drums and Theo Stevens on bass) in the works, there’s a lot to talk about that’s new.
The album I am because we are starts with “Bigger than me,” an ethereal-sounding intro, complete with a picked-out, flourishing guitar riff, filled out with a nimble bass sound and crashing drums. The second song, “Bury Me,” is a softer tune, with a mellow, reflective feel. Third up is “I am because we are,” the song that shares the album title (and its existential punch).
In their promotional material, the band says their sound “nods to Jeff Buckley, John Mayer, Eddie Vedder, and Incubus.” I’d agree with this, but especially Jeff Buckley and Incubus: mostly in the vocals and the way the songs are put together.
One thing that’s obvious from the album’s sound is that the band sounds tight, even from the first songs. Everything feels crisp, deliberate, and precise. This album, among many other perks, is thoughtfully designed.
In my review of Jake Meeking’s solo work, I talked about how great his guitar playing was. His solo release, Walking On My Own, (which I strongly recommend checking out) had more blues and jazz licks, but I am because we are has more of an alternative rock feel, which just proves the versatility of Jake’s guitar playing. It’s a different style from his other work, but still recognizable. This doesn’t distract from the other two thirds of the group, either. In fact, Glenn and Theo keep pace with Jake to make a complete, balanced sound. They’ve got a lot to keep up with, but they do so excellently, and with style.
The overall feel of the album is a little dark, maybe a little pained, even. There are light moments for sure, but even these peaceful interludes have bite. I am because we are is a pensive kind of album. You’ve got to stop, slow down, and really listen. Some of it is fierce and angry, but always thoughtful and precise. It’s an album searching for something. That’s the headspace this music puts me in most of all. It’s the overall vibe of I am because we are: let’s look a little harder for whatever it is we’re searching for. Hopefully we find it, but we might not.
Of course, after all this talk of feel and airiness, you might just appreciate the pure rock and roll of this album (and for those listeners I’d recommend especially song number six: “New world”). And that’s okay, too. You can appreciate either, because the album works on so many levels. I recommend I am because we are especially to guitar fans (and “Wheels,” the album’s eighth song, to Jeff Buckley fans).
But most of all, check out this album if you’re just looking for some new music to sit back and appreciate deeply. I am because we are is an album that’s especially well-crafted and meant to be listened to with focus.