By: Johnny Goff
The second release and first full-length studio album from progressive jamband Jimkata builds where the first album left off and neatly avoids the old cliché 'sophomore slump.' True to a portion of Jimkata's melodic persuasions, Burn My Money takes some ambitious leaps sonically and some venturous jaunts vocally. While many of Jimkata's loyal base are 20-somethings, those born in the '70s may recognize Jimkata's slightly evolving sound as early '80s New Wave meeting jam-inspired prog rock. Think Talking Heads and The Police meets Pink Floyd meets '80s sitcom theme music.
Vocals and strong lyrics have long been the dynamic force for Jimkata, a trend that continues on Burn My Money lead-off title cut, with the theme of knowing where you're going but never forgetting where you've come from. It's the journey we all strive for, the destination being the difficult facet of the equation as we fight for financial freedoms amidst artistic exploration. As far as the instrumentation and experimentation of the album, it's a much more mature expression from the busy Ithaca quartet.
On the second track, "One to Ten," first and second listens from a middle aged listener could yield echoes of the '80s Jesus Jones hit "Right Here, Right Now." While jamming is present on Burn My Money, "One to Ten" really is a track that showcases Jimkata's progressive influences, perhaps echoing Umphrey's McGee. This song is also a potential vehicle for 'crossover success,' as record executives might put it.
On "Baby, Put It On Me," rhythm guitarist and lead singer Evan Friedell once again burrows into traveling themes and downplaying physical possessions: "I've been finding that all these things we place value on/ will always be erased/ After we go/ After we go/ After we go away." This track recalls Phish's "Theme from the Bottom" ("Throw away stuff you don't need in the end/ Keep what's important/ And know who's your friend") and is another coming-of-age type song where Jimkata shows their jam chops with melodies floating into early Talking Heads style fallback rifts before drummer Packy Lunn drops consistent beats amid layered guitar, ultimately propelling a rhythmic swaying hammock. True to their roots, the song is reminiscent of some other Ithaca-area musicians, most notably Sims Redmond Band or Donna the Buffalo, but always with some uniquely Jimkata elements.
"Ping Pong" is a fun song and a nice use of studio elements. However, as an unfortunate byproduct of great studio production, Fridell's vocals are often over-filtered on numerous Burn My Money tracks. While offering more harmonized vocals from bassist Dave Rossi and lead guitarist Aaron Gorsch, "Ping Pong" and the album's title track are evidence that Jimkata's live prowess are conducive to and perhaps enhanced by a studio jam sessions.
The chameleon, filtered vocals, the '80s synths, New Wave tones, and driving rhythms are omnipresent by mid-album, begging comparisons to late period work by The Police. From "Place of Dreams," a sure dance floor song if extended live, onward it's obvious the second half of Burn My Money has a completely new feel. Less lyrically based and more exploratory instrumentally, the last 25 minutes of the album are proof the band is still JamBase material.
In the final stretch, Jimkata drops "Trunkaphonic," with bassy electronic zaps from Rossi and yet another studio voice filter for Friedell, which can be overlooked simply because it's the album's most vocally anemic track. True to its lone chorus - "Have we ever thought to slow down" - this track is destined to be a favorite with Jimkata loyalists who revel in the group's extended live rock ballads. The album's final track, "Drums Won't Guide," gently offers paternal life advice: "Drums won't guide you into the room/ And fish won't jump up out of the pond/ And into your mouth easily, son." This slow-harmonized chant once again seems to call upon the themes of balancing love for music with actual survival.
The album, more than a year in the making, isn't an entirely bold step for Jimkata. It's not a safe step either. However, it does seem to be the appropriate one. There wasn't too much that needed fine-tuning from their inaugural release. However, as these musicians mature, an album like Burn My Money, while drawing on the band's sensibilities, also begins to break down some preconceived notions about Jimkata. Terms like "young" or "up and coming" should begin to fall to the wayside, and comparisons to other local or national bands should soon find a similar fate. Burn My Money could be just the vehicle Jimkata needs for a successful breakthrough en route to collecting some real legal tender.
Burn My Money is available for a free download here.
Jimkata is currently out on an East Coat tour. Find dates here.
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