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Jacks, Paul

In Other Words
(Tritone Records)
Release Date: August 9, 2019

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The city of Anchorage is located at the terminus of the Cook Inlet in the south-central portion of Alaska. With its long, brutal winters and close proximity to active volcanos, the city is as beautiful as it dangerous. Here is where we find the iconoclastic indie-pop auteur Paul Jacks.

Over the past decade and a half, the Alaskan singer/songwriter/producer/multi-instrumentalist has quietly built a compelling catalogue of recordings that showcase a distinctive lyrical vision and a one-of-a-kind sonic sensibility. The latest in his body of work is In Other Words, the artist’s second official solo album, an ambitious song cycle on which he explores vibrant new musical territory while picking up various musical threads from his acclaimed earlier band Smile Ease and its spin-off combo Asteroid, as well as his 2018 solo debut Defractor.

On In Other Words, Jacks’ deep devotion to music-making is reflected in the emotional punch of such catchy, emotionally resonant new tunes as “In the Late Dark,” “Do What You Will,” “Still Your Passenger” and “You’re Gonna Learn to Love Someday.”

In Other Words has ten songs which narrate a story of love lost, self-destruction, denial, longing, regret, shame, and, at the last moment, hope,” the artist observes. “For me, the album has a flow of levels that are cohesive in an artful way. It was partly recorded during the same period as Defractor.

“Where Defractor felt like a reinvention, In Other Words sparked its own unique navigation,” Jacks reflects. “There’s some very deep introspection on this album. I lost a close family friend to suicide last year and that sparked some of this album. I wanted to attempt something universal, a message that no matter how grim your situation looks, it’s gonna get better, and we can use art to heal ourselves and find a new awareness that we didn’t have before. I think that there’s a sense of closure and hope before this record stops spinning.”

According to Jacks, his new solo status afforded him a new level of creative latitude in creating In Other Words.

“It was very liberating,” he states. “I had the freedom to make this album and approach the material how I wanted. I didn’t have to stay in one specific sound or one way of operating. I think of myself as a musical explorer and I need to be able to practice as such. Going solo seemed like a natural transition for me after so many lineups of Smile Ease. I grew tired of constantly teaching the music over and over to new members who would be in the band for a year or two. You end up spending all your time rehearsing, rather than writing and recording. Now I’m able to move at my own pace with whatever I want to do, and that’s allowed me the freedom I need to flourish creatively.”

Although Jacks was enthusiastic about reinventing himself as a solo artist, he found a key collaborator in Colton Ciufo, who previously served as keyboardist in Asteroid.

“I bonded with Colton in the Asteroid days and during the early production work for Defractor, so In Other Words is in part a collaboration between me as the songwriter and Colton as an idea man and instrumentalist. Colton would come by the studio once a week to hang out and record and in between those sessions, I would work on the songs until they became demos, and then we would refine the demos until they were mature. Then later on I began working intensely on it and started laying all the vocals, harmonies, bringing in guests, while continuing to shape the songs”

Paul Jacks’ recording history stretches back to 2003, when he released a solo single, “Cowboys and Indians.” The single attracted the attention of some songwriter friends, with whom he formed Smile Ease in the spring of 2004, and began gigging locally that summer. Although the band had always been intended as a collective featuring multiple songwriters and musicians, the original lineup splintered, leaving Jacks as main frontman and songwriter.

Smile Ease began its first recording project in 2005, cutting tracks in a friend’s garage studio. These would function as early demos for the band’s eponymous debut album. Most of that project was recorded in a house that the band members shared in downtown Anchorage in 2006, which the band dubbed 10 and C studios. The self-titled album was released in late 2007, and Smile Ease supported it with a northwest club tour.

After several more lineup changes and more touring, Smile Ease recorded The Lion Rampant, launching the release with a series of live shows in Anchorage. It was followed by another new album, Intimate, which was initially intended as the 3rd Smile Ease album. But after another personnel shakeup, it was decided to credit Intimate to a new band entity, Asteroid.

With In Other Words marking a substantial creative leap, Paul Jacks is enthusiastically looking forward to future musical adventures.

“I have a passion for making records and I work very hard on them. Every album is a new chapter for me,” he concludes. “I felt like Defractor had its place as a return album in my life, but ultimately I wanted to write a better nuwave album and I feel like I’ve accomplished that in In Other Words. Now I’m writing the next chapter, which will be another departure, and I’m looking forward to that journey.”


Photos: Sonny Ogle

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