Trust Everyone Before They Break Your Heart is the new album from Jonah, and it’s a doozy. Imagine an airplane that is always taking off, always accelerating and going higher.
Trust Everyone Before They Break Your Heart is the new album from Jonah, and it’s a doozy. Imagine an airplane that is always taking off, always accelerating and going higher. Every song on here is crafted to blow the listener off their feet, with enough comforting and insightful lyrics and musical intensity to challenge Coldplay or U2 in their magnificence.
The songs here are good. Chris Hayes plays catchy, Edge-style guitar hooks. But really, what else can you call sinewy, ringing guitar lines drenched in reverb or delay? The guitar parts aren’t derivative, nor are they face-melting. Matt Rogers’ bass and Jake Endicott’s drumming provide a solid rhythm section on every song. They mix it up well, providing angular grooves on “A Patient Man” and “Time’s Up.” They hold it together in varied settings: They get their rock on, as in “Lights Out,” and wear disco boots, as in album-opener “Runaground.”
Henry Curl is the powerful lead singer who also provides some rhythm guitar, piano and keyboards. If anything negative can be said about Jonah’s musical giftings, it’s that Curl has such a distractingly big voice. It’s a gift and a curse to Jonah’s songs. Pretty much every song here has Curl going from romantically soft to fucking huge singing, so as you listen to the songs it’s kind of like the waiting game. The listener can’t help thinking, “When is the song going to bust open and take me to heaven?” His voice is a big attraction to Jonah’s music though. It’s magnetic, like Bono, Thom Yorke, or Remy Zero’s Cinjun Tate.
The other star of this album is the production and the mix, which are totally professional without sounding cheesy slick, and the quality mix doesn’t take away from the spontaneity of the rock. The album was produced by Marshall Altman with engineering by Joe Zook, whose credits include Modest Mouse, Remy Zero and Counting Crows. Nothing about the sound of this is low budget or amateurish; it’s truly a pleasure to listen to. Local studios can look to Trust Everyone Before They Break Your Heart as an example of what a rock album should sound like.
The songs here are good and big, and they are easy to like. However, there are some lyrical difficulties. Take, for example, the middle verses of “Runaground,” the opening song: “It makes no sense / so sincere but you ride the fence / taking it to the limit / you don’t know where that is / shark attack / quiet now, they can smell your tracks / hunting you down / the liars found you / crossing your own heart.” Any song that sings about “taking it to the limit” brings the cheese of “Danger Zone” from Top Gun or “You’re the Best” from Karate Kid. Secondly, sharks can’t smell tracks, because people don’t leave tracks in the ocean. Sure sharks can smell blood, but mixing metaphors is just weak.
Jonah’s website boasts that their last album had two songs “placed” in the CW (then WB) series Dawson’s Creek. The tricky part comes when you keep reading and find that all the songs on this album are ready and eager for placement in your TV series, movie, commercial or other marketing strategy. What’s troubling is that on Jonah’s website, next to the usual promotional press sheet, is a 15-page booklet designed to help music supervisors overview every song on the album without actually listening to it. We find the complete lyrics to the songs, some musical “sounds like” examples, short descriptions of the emotional mood of the song, and even time cues to when every verse, chorus and bridge to each song begins. It’s a great move from a business standpoint, but it’s hard not to see these readily marketable music bites as crassly commercial, despite the power and grandeur found in Jonah’s songs.
The songs on this album are mostly lush, dreamy, epic songs, a la Coldplay, U2 and Radiohead, but they do get a little varied, as on the swaggering mid-tempo “Don’t Disappear.” The band takes on an acoustic two-step feel on “When You Fade,” and not surprisingly settles into big ballad mode on album-closer “The Joy of Drowning.” In the end, if lush tunes with powerhouse vocals appeal to you, then check out this album.