The first thing that strikes you is that name. Jasper Sloan Yip. Is the ‘Sloan’ included just to stop people confusing him with all the other Jasper Yips out there? If you rearrange the letters you can make J-Lo, A Sniper Spy, so perhaps this album contains all sorts of other loosely-encrypted conspiracy theories… Whatever the true story behind the unusual moniker, the thirty year-old singer songwriter has made quite the (metaphorical) name for himself in his native Canada, becoming a big hit on college radio after releasing his 2010 debut Every Day and All At Once. 2013’s follow-up Foxtrot spawned the Canadian top ten and award-winning hit ‘Show Your Teeth’ and now JSY (sorry, I just can’t keep typing it in full) has returned in 2017 with the more fully-formed and mature Post Meridiem, a record that should - if there is any justice - bring his talents some serious global attention.
Although it boasts only eight songs, everything about Post Meridiem is decidedly unhurried. Opening with an aching orchestral instrumental, you might well wonder if you’ve put on a soundtrack album by mistake but you are nevertheless immediately forced to slow down and focus your ears. So, when the tick-tock drums of the first song proper finally arrive you’re already in the zone. And me oh my, it’s such a beautiful place to be. ‘The Day Passed and The Sun Went Down’ carries with it the strings of the album’s intro and pours on lashings of Jellyfishian kitchen-sinkery: warm Rhodes; bouncing piano; gentle dustings of vibes and blissed-out crashing drums that draw a gleeful line under its soaring 1970s guitar break. Reminiscent of the genius of Duncan Sheik at his peak and the majesty of Beck's Sea Change album, this is pure sonic luxury.
How do you follow that? Well, ‘Strangers’, again, makes full use of lush, cinematic strings while somehow leaving space for haunting backing vocals - very apt for a song all about alienation in the noisy, modern world – and then ‘Put Up Your Hair’ is small, intimate and acoustic. The superb ‘In The Living Room’ follows and is by far the most radio-ready song on offer: all clack, splash and energy (it’s the current single, pop-pickers) and has a smart video to match. In stark contrast, ‘I Don’t Know Where I’ve Been’ is confessional, emotional and bare, led by simple piano chords and JSY’s soft-edged, quavering vocal.
The waltz and boxy orchestration of ‘Tinfoil Hats’ is a gentle, late-breaking gem, with Jasper Sloan Yip’s child-like delivery putting me in mind of the fantastic yet overlooked Tom McRae, while the piano-led ‘Mary Never Mind’ throws a languid nod at the mighty Ryan Adams. With delicate guitar and a close vocal, ‘Who Are You’ finishes the record off in an understated and restrained way and you feel like you’ve travelled thousands of miles from where you started.
A pleasingly old-fashioned feature of Post Meridiem is that every track segues into the next, encouraging you to take it in at one sitting. It reinforces the idea that this is a whole album rather than just a procession of individual songs, with the man himself claiming: “Post Meridiem is a self-portrait. Or rather, a series of vignettes that, when considered together, give a sense of the whole.” Exquisitely produced by John Raham, the fairy dust never clouds the intimacy of the songs and the rich character of the voice delivering them. Post-Meridiem is, as a result, a small but gleaming chunk of musical treasure. You might need to write it down a few times, but Jasper Sloan Yip is not a name you should be in a hurry to forget.
'Post Meridien' will be released October 27th, 2017 via Afterlife Music / Membran.
Review by Rich Barnard.