Blame Jakob – Pocketknife Demo (Single Review)

There’s something wholesome going on in Blame Jakob: a lot of laughter, much weed, a little bit of college, and plenty of stylistic backgrounds. They’ve come a ways since their first show; I can still remember seeing them and thinking it was a strange troupe of students who pulled together due to friendship and mutual appreciation for life at present. They’ve rotated ever so slightly since inception, but they’re still pushing forth with very little sign of stopping.

As they’ve come forward, their music has seemingly become less certain of itself. When they began, demos like “Drop” and “Tucked Away” came off as two straight-forward twinkly indie jams, comfortable in their structure, and pretty cute in their lo-fi spareness. The latter in particular is a perfectly cozy duet between guitarist Jake Soojian and vocalist/lyricist Kyla Izirray over some light yet steady performances from fellow guitarist Ethan Javage, with stellar rhythms being held down by bassist Jakob Kahler and drummer Carson Hyde. Kyla wrote with a measured self-consciousness that was fitting for the tunes, reminiscent in its gentle delivery to Philly mainstays Free Cake For Every Creature. In this moment, they reveled in newness, with no pressure to be anything “more”. For all intents and purposes, they were innocent.

After listening to this new “demo” (I throw quotes in here because two credits are placed for production handling, which leaves the song with more polish than the demo labeling tends to indicate) I immediately note the lack of the same structure that characterized their earlier material. Here instead we have a smattering of ideas coming from all fronts, attempting to find a home somewhere in the over five and a half minutes of track time. For example, the shouts thrown in following the first verse feel like a nod to the Mom Jeans-worshipping indie punk sounds that many a Philly band embrace these days. I do like the more contemporary pop-oriented vocals and not-taking-your-shit lyrical content that Devyn Luzniak brings to the table (gouge those eyes out, girl!), but her role as vocalist feels less central than I would expect from prior output, which takes away from the words themselves to some degree. Since nothing is being highlighted as particularly important, there don’t feel like any landmarks in “Pocketknife”, which leaves it feeling a little long upon first listen. Given a couple more spins, the length bothers me less and less, but I find myself missing the short n’ sweet nuggets of goodness of the past which left listeners with a more immediate emotional take-away.

Perhaps the band feels some call to “step up their game” in terms of songwriting and production. Indeed, this is very much a transitional period for them, and in trying to answer the question of “Who is Blame Jakob? What can Blame Jakob be?”, some experimenting with these aspects is bound to occur. They are more than allowed to do so, but I would be quick to warn that rinsing away the spunky indie gleam of yesteryear is unnecessary and that the band has already displayed some qualities which are endearing and distinct. Hopefully they can pin these down and expand on them rather than moving away from them.

Ultimately, I like the band as a unit, and some catalogue navel-gazing would do them good in the forward march to create new material. My humbly extended advice: don’t forget your roots, continue having fun with it, and, lastly, a great acronym which here I place lovingly and with only the best of intent: KISS, or Keep It Simple, Stupid.

Pros:

  • On trajectory to mature into something interesting
  • Lots and lots of ideas
  • Still loving the lyrics, go Devyn
  • “New Jersey na-a-aiiiights”

Cons:

  • No need for the polish
  • Lots and lots of ideas
  • Unhedged structure has tons of stuff but little direction other than forward

Listen here.

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