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Jack Campbell is a rare addition to the Twin Ports’ music scene. While there are a few individuals under 21 playing music in this area, Campbell as shined more than most of them. It was around five or six years ago when he came out with the high school band, Excuse Me, Princess, and there was no doubt that Campbell had talent beyond his years. While Campbell has released more albums than many musicians and rockers in the area nearly twice his age, he certainly has kept a lid on his ego; he seems to create music because that’s what he’s meant to do. Campbell can play a rocking live set, but especially when listening to this album, songwriting has been and still is his niche.
This self titled album will be Campbell’s fourth solo project and it hinges on catchy instrumental and vocal hooks and gets a little personal, but not so much where the listener feels that it’s getting uncomfortable. Campbell has written about relationships in past material but now that he’s of college going age, the songs feel a little more meaningful. Yes, there’s certainly some discord in the lyrics, relationships are never exactly easy, but those who have a smooth time in their early 20s are lucky and rare cases. Naturally, writing about relationship woes fits well with songwriting.
The album opens with harsh and dissonant electric guitar and I was hoping that this effect wouldn’t be used too much. Thankfully, it gives way to the brisk clip of acoustic guitar and Campbell’s mellow vocals. “I wonder if she exists/the girl in my head/the one I thought was you/until you shot me dead,” sings Campbell in the first verse. The stops and starts of backing instruments frame the song perfectly production wise. No, it’s not really the happiest song ever, but there’s a nice bounce to it that it makes it easily accessible. There’s some vulnerability in the lyrics but it never goes to a point where the listener might think, “God, what a whiny emo bitch.” The situations displayed are heartfelt, believable and understandable.
The layers of sounds and solid structure of songs like “Scared of Heights” reenforces Campbell’s knack of making good songs. The album stays pretty consistent to the feel it contains. The final verse goes, “At least I got off my ass for once/I gave it an honest shot/but never should have looked down/I saw I saw the chasms there/I’ve never been more scared/I shouted I just want to go home/knowing full well that meant I’d be going home alone.”
Songs like “Black and White” utilize an electric piano and synth a little more than the rest of the songs. There’s a good groove going on with more traditional instruments and guitar riffage and tight bass lines really tie the song together.
The album ends with the song “I’ve Seen Enough” begins with an airy and laid back organ which sets the tone for a sentimental acoustic and synth driven song. There are a few layers of vocals, one with a slap-back sort of delay. On the download I was given I got a demo version of the album along with the release ready version. The album would have been pretty good without all of the production techniques, but the work put in to it paid off. There’s nothing overboard and I think the decisions made make for a more interesting and deeper listen.
This self titled album certainly makes a good addition to Campbell’s work. I have no real criticisms with this album or any of Campbell’s past albums but if there was one thing that I wish Campbell would do, it’d be to explore even more. This album had a certain feel to it and I think that it’s fitting considering the material, but although there is some good production, some creative work with synths, solid and innovative guitar work and meaningful lyrics. The only thing I can think of is to take the sound further and to more unexpected places. Besides that, Campbell has continued to be a respectable musician from the area and he has plenty of years and talent to take his music anywhere he wants.
Campbell will be kicking off a short Midwest tour starting at Redstar Lounge in Duluth on Saturday, November 29. Campbell comes from Duluth but currently is attending college in Chicago. The album can be looked up on Bandcamp.