The Modern Beat review of “Deep in the Waves”

J. Briozo - Deep in the Waves album cover

By Daniel Boyer
Original Post: December 2017

“Jeff Crandall’s work over two studio releases and numerous live appearances with Minneapolis’ Swallows has positioned him as one of the indie scene’s best vocalists on the rise, but his first solo album as J.Briozo, Deep in the Waves, should gain him further renown as a songwriting powerhouse and compelling performer away from the auspices of his full time band. He tries his hand at multiple forms with this collection and achieves across the board credible results without ever straining listener’s acceptance. There’s a rare level of confidence coming off this release for a debut solo album and one can only ascribe that to the likelihood that Crandall began recording these songs with a sure idea of what he wanted the final results to sound like. There’s little question that he’s pulled that off with considerable aplomb.

“There’s obviously a lot of thought and consideration given to these thirteen songs, but there’s ample evidence of a loose, spontaneous approach as well that’s capable of capturing true studio magic. This balance is heard strongly in the album opener ‘Blind’ with its keyboard propelled arrangement and the measured duet-like aspects between Crandall’s voice and the artful instrumentation. There’s none of the acoustic musing in the opener that we hear in the album’s title and second track ‘Deep in the Waves’, but it also features a much cleaner and accessible approach than Crandall adopted with the first tune. The folksy strum of the song’s foundational acoustic guitar pairs up very nice with his voice. The alt rock confidence coming from ‘Spinning Out’ makes good for Crandall and his listeners thanks, in no small part, to how much the mileage the song gets from its title and the steady fundamentals that enable the track to go deeper than most. It’s one of the few tracks on Deep in the Waves to show off some lead playing, as well, and it punctuates the song to magnificent effect.

“‘The Big Parade’ betrays some bluesy influences while still following the acoustic template that’s been established a few songs in on Deep in the Waves. It’s one of the album’s most involved lyrics and comes off well, colloquial yet eloquent, yet the language manifests a rough and tumble quality we don’t get from the stylish and satisfying arrangement. There’s just enough hint of the epic in the song ‘Catalonia’ that helps it stand out from the pack and the obvious work put into realizing the vocal arrangement leaps out as one of the song’s true highlights. Influences from psychedelia rear their head at various points during the recording and one of the best examples of that strand in Crandall’s musical tapestry comes to life with the song ‘Firefly’ and its focus on atmospherics never plays strained. The tune ‘Santa Cruz’ opens with a mix of ambient electronica before spartan acoustic guitar swells out of the mix alongside Crandall’s dreamlike, smoky mid-register singing. It’s one of the album’s shorter tracks and pairs up well with the next song and album closer ‘Sun Sun True’, a practically raga-like electric guitar workout with big, ringing chords and an inspired vocal from Crandall. This song closes Deep in the Waves with much of the same individual air surrounding the songs from the first cut onward. Anyone who appreciates fine, stylistically diverse songwriting will find much to admire on this release.”

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