Jukebox the Ghost – Jukebox the Ghost
Brooklyn trio Jukebox the Ghost released their latest album this week, the self-titled, Jukebox the Ghost, on Yep Roc Records. The album, like Safe Travels before it, was produced in Los Angeles by Dan Romer – except, not entirely. Before visiting Romer, the band – Ben Thornewill (Piano/Vocals), Tommy Siegel (Guitar/Vocals), and Jesse Kristin (Drums) – first found themselves in the studio of Andrew Dawson, the Grammy Award-winning producer who’s worked with the likes of Kanye West, Jay Z, and John Legend – just to name a few.
With Dawson at the helm, they recorded “Postcard” – a song both musically different yet perfectly Jukebox. So what exactly do you get when you combine a producer who works with hip hop artists with a piano rock threesome from the east coast? Magic – or, perhaps, alchemy, the way Thornewill describes it.
“Postcard” is but one the album’s 11 stellar songs, fitting in seamlessly to the Romer-produced 10. In fact, snuggling in at track 9, you might never notice the difference if not looking for it specifically.
Romer – no slouch himself by the way; he produced A Great Big World’s debut album, Is There Anybody Out There?, including the ubiquitous “Say Something” with Christina Aguilera, the single selling many (many) millions of copies – has once again found a way to push all the right buttons (literally and figuratively) that bring out the best in Jukebox the Ghost.
One of the first things that becomes apparent on this album is the incredible depth and variety in the vocals – both lead and backing. The vocals are full and robust without being repetitive. Whether we’re talking about the background vocals in “Sound of a Broken Heart” or “The Great Unknown”, or the way Thornewill hits the pre-chorus to “Girl” three different ways, it’s a sound and experience that is unmatched.
Continuing on this theme, no discussion of this album would be complete without mentioning “Long Way Home” and “Hollywood”. “Long Way Home” features Thornewill and Siegel trading off lead vocals – a first for the band – and, for my money, the best track on the album. What makes this song even more special is that it was actually a combination of two songs; Thornewill and Siegel uniting their songwriting powers. And speaking of firsts, “Hollywood” marks Kristin’s debut vocal appearance; providing a raw and beautiful intro, contrasting perfectly with Thornewill’s unique timbre.
Winding down the album are two of the darker songs in Jukebox’s catalog, “Undeniable You” and “Show Me Where It Hurts”. “Undeniable You”, largely a solo Thornewill track, features more than a few church-choir-like vocal sections mixed in to haunting effect – adding additional weight to the lyrics. The emotional roller coaster doesn’t end there. The Siegel-led “Show Me Where It Hurts” takes that lead-in and cuts right through me with exacting precision. The simple piano, subtle string section, and Siegel’s vocals leave me absolutely spent every 3 minutes and 6 seconds I spend listening to this song.
Jukebox the Ghost took the band on more than a few new roads this time out, proving that these friends and bandmates for more than a decade still have plenty of tricks up their collective sleeves. After seeing — and interviewing — Jukebox live for the first time earlier this year, I cannot wait to hear how these new songs get mixed in to the old favorites.
Jukebox the Ghost is, hands down, one of the best albums of the year. It’s only a matter of time before everyone else catches on.