Hipsters, Hippies and Dreamers review of “Deep in the Waves”

J. Briozo - Deep in the Waves album cover

By David Shouse
Original post: December 2017

“Jeff Crandall has, in recent years, solidified his position as one of the most talented vocalists working on the indie scene with the Minneapolis-headquartered band Swallows. His first solo album Deep in the Waves, released under the banner of J.Briozo, marks his fullest emergence yet as an individual songwriting force to be reckoned with and the stylistic range defining the thirteen song release comes off so well, surprisingly, in part thanks to the presence of his Swallows’ band mates on an assortment of cuts. His ability to convincingly inhabit an array of musical skins on this album is one of its chief strengths, but it’s primary allure comes from the unfettered inspiration that’s palpable on nearly every cut. Crandall sounds utterly committed to the material, even in its most laid back or relaxed moments, and it makes Deep in the Waves one of 2017’s most invigorating listens.

“There’s a brooding atmosphere pervading much of Deep in the Waves without ever coming off as too heavy handed. The first song ‘Blind’ isn’t emblematic of the album as a whole, but it does embody much of the album’s emotional tenor. The muted instrumentation of ‘Blind’ is centered on keyboards and percussion with some effects skewing the sound in an idiosyncratic way. Crandall’s vocal is equally restrained, but quite evocative. He shifts gears for the album’s title track and second song as ‘Deep in the Waves’ has a much more organic, of the moment sort of sound than the comparatively well rehearsed performance we hear with the opener. This song, as well, highlights the merits of the album’s production as it achieves impressive density while balancing the various instruments in a near ideal way. The vocal production for the song ‘Beautiful Mess’ is especially impressive during the song’s second half, but it all begins with the first class and immensely emotive vocal Crandall provides the track. It’s even more ‘folky’ sounding than the title tune and has a relaxed elegance that proves hard to resist. One of the album’s effective forays into guitar driven rock comes with the song ‘Spinning Out’ and the potential in such a suggestive title gets fully exploited by Crandall. It’s a hard-edged track with plenty of six string fireworks to draw in fans of that style.

“The lyrical tilt of ‘Rain Song’ has just enough hints of psychedelia in the arrangement to give it a pleasingly alien quality but, at its heart, it’s another simple yet effective singer/songwriter track powered by acoustic guitar. ‘Las Cruces’ has a surprisingly theatrical quality and a slow burning character that comes more and more alive as the song progresses. Crandall excels here with a particularly considered, yet impressively natural, performance. His penchant for seemingly losing himself in the music continues with his hushed, almost reverential performance on the song ‘Firefly.’ The gossamer like interplay between the percussion, acoustic guitar, and electric guitar used for effect weaves quite a spell and somehow manages to hold together despite its dream-like texture. The last song for this superb album, ‘Sun Sun True,’ is a messy and woozily inspired final guitar workout with a wide open Crandall vocal and strong drumming. It’s a memorably upbeat ending for an album that does travel some through shadows and puts an emphatic exclamation point on the personal statement Jeff Crandall makes with the release of this solo debut.”

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