Friday, June 9, 2017

Ayron Jones' Audio Paint Job on CD

While listening to this new album from Seattle musician Ayron Jones, I keep thinking about the word ambitious. Having ambition can be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on the end result. You can bite off more than you can chew and wind up with an ambitious failure, and people will talk about the time that you overestimated yourself and showed your bare ass to the entire world. (Think Aldous Snow and "African Child.") Or, you can work quietly and steadily on a project, devote yourself to it completely and surprise the world. (Think Janelle Monae and The Archandroid.)

Ayron Jones' new album, Audio Paint Job, leans toward the latter. This album came out of nowhere. I had expectations and preconceptions. I stuck it in the CD player and started listening. Wow. It's powerful, melodic and inventive. It's like Lenny Kravitz, but less derivative. It's like, well, Janelle Monae in its ability to borrow from numerous genres--big arena rock, grunge, hip-hop, blues and pop--and roll them up into a big tasty helping of ambition that pays off in a big way.

Jones has been wowing audiences in the Pacific Northwest for some time now. He's quite famous for the energy of his live shows, and the ultimate goal has always been to capture that lightning bolt, put it in a jar and release it in the studio. So Jones teamed with producer Barrett Martin and mixer Jack Endino--the same guy who helped Nirvana put out Bleach for a few hundred bucks--and assembled a killer line-up of PNW musicians such as bassist Bob Lovelace, drummers Ehssan Karimi and Kai Van De Pitte, and DJ Indica Jones. The result is an album that sounds like it was released by a famous rock star at the peak of his creative powers.

I brought up the Lenny Kravitz comparison because he has that knack for writing original songs that sound like old classics, with titles that feel like they're balanced on the tip of your tongue. The first single off Audio Paint Job, "Take Your Time," has that same familiarity and likeability with its Keith Richard guitar riffs (Jones is a hell of a rock guitarist, by the way). "Stand Up (Take Your Power Back)" starts off with a big, heavy dose of Jimmy Page, repetitive and fast and full of swagger. The majority of these 14 tracks are designed, in fact, to rock big audiences with pure showmanship. But Jones is no drugged out rocker singing about The Endless Party. His lyrics are sometimes blunt and simplified, but his passion is undiluted--the heartfelt and anthemic ballad "Love Is the Answer," which draws obviously upon "What's Going On," is the proof.

What I like most about this album is how cohesive it is from beginning to end. Many new bands take aim at the best music of the '70 through the '90s and manage to create a "sound" that's by song, that is. But Audio Paint Job casts its spell across the entire stretch, building up tension where it needs to and offering release at just the right moments. This album is so good, in fact, that I'm wondering how well it will do out in the real world. Will Ayron Jones eventually become a huge rock star? He certainly sounds like one right now.

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