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Michael Jukes

‘Bright Room,’ self-release

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Michael Jukes returns with another excellent collection of songs, “Bright Room.” Jukes writes songs without pretense or regard to genre, and as a result his music can be hard to describe. While his records are made of simple, straightforward songs, they originate from a unique point of view; “pop music” doesn't quite fit. And it's far too un-self-conscious to be indie rock. So let's just call it “low-key-bedroom-studio-chamber-pop” for now.

Jukes' albums also often draw comparisons to Jim O'Rourke's solo work, largely because they have similar vocal deliveries and a shared affinity for borderline lounge Latin rhythms. A more accurate comparison is to Smile-era Beach Boys. But not in a superficial mimicking way (I'm talking to you, Apples in Stereo). Rather, Jukes shares with Brian Wilson a knack for emotional transparency and beautiful arrangements. With its soaring melody and pulsing piano, “Say Your Name” could be an out-take from Wilson's best work.

Jukes also has Wilson's ability to convey complex emotions with the simplest language. The track “Gum” instructs a lover to “put your gum on the headboard and kiss me. … When we're apart and you're lonely you can chew gum and look busy.”

 The album's one weakness also lends to its charm. Jukes' heavy reliance on sampled instruments (strings, horns, bass) and drum loops makes me wonder what he could accomplish in a collaborative recording scenario (he has an excellent live band, the New Idealists, but they rarely play and have yet to make it on an album with Jukes). But the album's singular creative voice and unpretentious arrangements make for a collection that boldly stands out in an era littered with so many post-Radiohead self-conscious indie hipsters and retro-y alternative posturing. “Bright Room” is a straightforward collection of simply beautiful songs.

Stream the album via www.jukesmusic.com.

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