Adult Jazz’s frontman Harry Burgess describes his band’s sound in a press release as “that juxtaposition between, say, something my mother would like, and something she would find difficult”. It’s a dumbfoundedly suitable phrase for this Leeds-based four-piece’s debut album ‘Gist Is’ - a record that sits on the line between easily digestible pop record your parents would dig and lengthy, overbearing art rock your more in-touch mates would appreciate, ultimately flirting with both ideas for just under an hour.
Opener ‘Hum’ is a daunting choice for a first track - ethereal and meandering, it trickles a literal hum gently as a stream as Burgess’ vocals elevate things slowly and sumptuously. It’s no surprise the band supported Wild Beasts and These New Puritans at The Great Escape this year - Burgess’ vocal is as jarring as Tom Fleming’s, and their spacious, minimalistic arrangements hark those found on last year’s ‘Field of Reeds’. But as ‘Hum’ concludes with a certain spring in its step, it’s clear that there’s a lot to love about ‘Gist Is’ - you just need to rummage hard for it.
‘Am Gone’ and ‘Springful’ - the two songs that formed the band’s first single released back in January - remain two of the best songs that the band have produced to date. ‘Am Gone’ is spritely and joyful, its infectious melody bubbling underneath layers of haze-laden slickness and airy percussion. It’s hard not to think about alt-J when hearing these tracks, as Adult Jazz have the same knack of serendipitously twisting basic pop concepts into off-kilter indie rock - they just head a bit further down the fantastical rabbit hole.
There’s an ebbing flow through the whole of the record, and those not engaged by the end of its potentially exhausting A-side will find themselves drifting off by the time the sharp strumming of ‘Pigeon Skills’ comes to an end. But those who stick around will be rewarded with the band’s interesting forays into gospel, contemporary jazz, electronica and even folk. The sprawling nine-minute mammoth of ‘Spook’ even finds them embracing tropical and balearic elements, dissolving them down to their softest, barest elements - Adult Jazz thrive the most when they break genres down to their barebones and then execute the essentials so carefully.
Without a doubt an audacious first effort, Adult Jazz have lovingly crafted a record of intriguing, ear-catching pop music on ‘Gist Is’. Those unable to get their head around its own internal logic however will find themselves stonewalled - listening to it is a bit like eating huge mouthfuls when trying new food instead of taking a few bites, and the end result feels just as bloating and discomforting as that process in itself. On the other hand, those already hooked by their irregular melodies and sharp, focused instrumentation will certainly find a few gems to latch on to.