Leading with creatively uninhibited, surf-rock and indie anthem vibes, Grammy-winning producer Zane Birdwell introduces a boldly colourful album of originals, under the intriguing title of Shame Jungle.
The project’s opener and driving single is the wonderfully eclectic Fantastic, moving from cinematic detail to indie rock and later to Ska for a wholly immersive, storytelling core that continues to engage the listener.
With this we get moments of distorted weight, passionate solos, contrasted instances of intimate, near-acoustic softness, and always the voice has character, familiarity; a thread that holds the whole thing together with its story and emotional commitment.
Zane’s clearly versatile and fearless approach to creating music shows itself early on – the classic rock and roll rhythm of Medicine Man, the vocal switch from grit to falsetto, quickly redirecting things and lighting up a whole other side to Shame Jungle.
Then there’s the sudden folk-pop bass-driven groove of The Barking Dog, and now we’re in an ambient, quiet realm, where breathy vocals promise poetic lyrics and short lines that are naturally memorable. Here we find a slight sound of Eels or Elbow, the warmer, more contemplative and bright side of indie rock.
Something New later on has a similarly gentle, hypnotic strength. Both songs are beautiful, stunning even – poignant and heart-breaking yet colourful and optimistic in sound.
Other highlights from the 11-track project include the artistic and minimalist yet interesting Hellenistic Pyramid, a song that provokes thought and provides the dreamy ambiance within which to really let the feeling roll.
The addictive fuzz and energy of Celebrate at the penultimate moment is another, classic indie-rock charm feels easily recognisable. The guitar sound is somehow celebratory in itself, almost like a birthday riff of quirky, catchy origins.
Arrangement-wise everything works beautifully, consider the pace and weight of It’s In Me before the delicacy and calm of Sunday Smiling; and the equally uplifting folk embrace yet compelling storyline of Steven. Then there’s the power of Celebrate leading into the absolute softness of an acoustically finger-picked Under The Moonlight – one final song that again shines light on one more side to the artist.
Poetry, purpose, emotion, faultless musicianship, originality and a clear understanding of what works united under the blanket of intrigue that is Shame Jungle. Well worth a few listens this year and beyond – a timeless project that keeps on giving.