Jakals is a Beantown-based band comprised of Katie Solomon (vocals), Jack Lewis (guitar), Bredon Jones (also on guitar), Zach Wulderk (bass), and Teryn Citino (drums). Their talent is strong and seeps through every measure of music like grease through a paper bag containing Chinese takeout food. The songwriting is cerebral and drawn from insightful reflection on real situations. Combined with the music, it is surreal. If I ever attend a concert in a tunnel, this is the kind of band I want to see. Jakals is releasing a new album titled Keep Mother Sane on Saturday. I was lucky enough to hear it sooner.
The album begins with “Billboard Of The Horizon,” a track with low, brooding chords that bring the word grunge to mind. Katie’s lyrical delivery is smart and well-articulated, and the vocals paint wide, opaque swaths of color for a bigger tableau, like South American street art. The song wonders at the widespread impact of those attention-stealing life-sucking aspects of the post internet society. “Nobody seems to know their own fame,” sings Katie, lamenting at the human fallout from the internet revolution. I bet she knows how to have fun at the beach.
“Keep Mother Sane” is track that floats and bobs on sonic currents, held down by nylon ropes emanating from the bass. The vocals progress from a simmering calm to a more frenzied tone as the lyrics address the stickiness of a mother-[adult] daughter relationship: “I am caged here with your pain / but I can’t leave today / Gotta keep Mother sane gotta keep Mother sane…” Katie addresses the question that she is asked over and over, tipping a toe into vocal playfulness, as the song ends,with “Settle down, my mind. Settle down, my mind. Settle down, my mind…” If you repeat anything long enough, it loses its meaning.
The next song, “If You Want A Companion,” is a supplication for compromise. Katie sings with empathy, asking for company but warning that she is imperfect. While the music showers down, Katie aims her voice for the clouds: “If you want a companion / You’ll have to leave my side / I didn’t invite all this care until it was already there.” “Homesick” shimmers, with soft cymbals and dreamy guitar. Katie paints visions of life before pixels dominated our visual attention, in shades of volatile, high-flying vibrato and gentle glides. The lyrics are enchanting, revealing apparitions from the past. This song serves as a reminder to forget your phone more often.
“Going Crazy” features dirty guitars, restrained and reminiscent of some of the best things to enter my developing auditory cortex in the 90s. Katie sings of a state of motionlessness accompanied by the excruciating inability to attend to those who need attention the most. It’s not easy to cozy up to the looming specter of an impending rough patch. It would drive anyone crazy. “Lonely” begins and ends like ripples in a wishing fountain. The guitar has the brightness of a moment in solitude. The middle is energetic yet gentle, like the wave energy swimming the wake of something with a motor. “Hold me now / I’m just as alone as you / Hold me now / I’m lonely too,” wails Katie, drowning in the loneliness that is shared by everyone who is able to think for themselves. The song is a weighted blanket for the restless heart, and ends with a repeated question, “Am I even alive?”
What follows is lighter, and is called “Young And Easy.” Swinging guitars are joined by drums that are bold like an X written on the back of your hand in Sharpie. Katie’s vocals are uninhibited like riding a bicycle without a helmet or playing soccer in flip flops. The lyrics mourn an increasing disconnection, or is it just increased awareness of a disconnection that was always there? When we were younger, we didn’t care. “Apathy” flows with the laws of the universe, like rowing alone in a dinghy. Katie sings lines of exciting syntax in zigs and zags, taking the listener on a dizzying tour of the emotional chronology of a relationship that suffers. “Wish I were easy like I used to be / All your patience built a haven for my barbarity.” The lyrics have a current of existential fear leading to a culmination tinged by self-loathing with “Only a beast could find my heart.” However, the way Katie’s voice softens as she draws out the words “find my heart,” intonation rising, gives it a subtle sweetness.
The vocals in “Devil Eyes” pulse and writhe, like the angst of a confined animal. It is quiet yet forceful. The bass takes position, a rail of electricity one dare not cross. The lyrics evoke images of lycanthropy and dark environments whose darkness seems to only heighten the poignancy of the events that transpire within. “Abel” begins with the line “Do you remember when I became your jester,” setting up the listener for a temporally distant dynamic that is less than desirable. The tricky thing about the jester, though, is their proclivity toward, in the course of everyday mischief, angering the monarch. This track is a bit different from the others on the album; instead of building to a climax then chilling out in the resolution, “Abel” builds toward a silence, then comes back for a final punch of sound.
The album ends with a salve to the stinging contusions the previous songs brought the listener’s attention to. “Like A Doll” is like bruschetta. The airy lightness of the guitar provides the perfect vehicle for diced tomato vocals with the occasional high sustained notes of garlic and salt. Meanwhile, Katie’s voice takes on an angelic, folksy tone, as she sings of cosmic connectedness and predetermined fate. This song is the cheese plate after the meal. (And yes, it has brie.)
Keep Mother Sane is one of those albums where you put each song on repeat, until its lines bounce around in your head enough for you to learn the inflection of every single word. Taken at face value, the lyrics are profound; combined with the music, they are mind-blowingly complex. Each song is a lesson in persistence and doubles as excellent respiratory training exercise, should you choose to sing along. Jakals are celebrating the of Keep Mother Sane Saturday night at The Burren.