One of the first things I noticed as I listened through the duo Jake Stam’s album Toy Troubles is that it incorporated a lot of very clear and catchy lyrics, meaning I felt the inclination to hum along and bob my head from side to side even on the first listen without knowing what lyrics were coming next. A deeper attention to the lyrics reveals that each is written almost like a standalone poem. However, though the lyrics were straightforward, the melodies are deeper and require a great deal of appreciation.
For example, “Young,” like its title, has a musically whimsical feel, though the lyrics are jarringly honest and upfront. The lyrics and vocal pitch are catchy (meaning it’s easy to hum along to if the mood requests) and the harmony works well. It has just enough of a dirty guitar feel balanced with very pop- inspired vocals to make a great song all around.
“Careless Avenue” is a song where the vocals really carry the most intriguing parts of the lyrics. The introduction to “The Endless War” caught my attention and had me immediately wondering what was going to come next. The piano melody was a great foundation and I liked how the other instruments fed off that melody and still managed to lend their own special flair to the song. I would note that it almost seemed held back from what it could have been; the very tasteful choices in what instrument to bring to forefront played a huge part in the nuance of the song, but there were many moments I thought were going to just explode that remained restrained.
I like the drums in the verse portions “Memories;” they carry the melody, though they take a back seat during the choral portions. The tempo change in “Speak My Mind” made me feel some kind of special way; I absolutely loved how the verse was fast but the chorus contained a really heavy, albeit somewhat slower groove. It’s actually kind of difficult to further articulate what I liked about this song, but it ended up being my favorite on the album and I will definitely be coming back to it – could be the extra bit of soul that was added into the last minute.
This album is different – different from the usual pop albums, different from most rock, and different from, really, anything that’s out these days. It’s both accessible but heavy, extremely groovy but poppy, and forces you to face some of the very real emotions we all feel from day to day. It was only five songs, yet it satisfying, but still managed to keep me wanting more – and really, I can’t ask for much more from an album. Go on, Jake Stam, keep doing your thing, because people like me will continue enjoying your gift to the world.
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