THE EAR OF A DRUNKEN MAN: The songs are short, melodic but pared-down, bleak but ultimately hopeful. It’s an intense and deeply personal affair, but somehow it’s also very accessible.
People often talk about ‘undiscovered’ musicians as if it’s a miracle that there are people out there who make music without the backing of a record label. Well, it’s not. In fact, it’s pretty common; you just have to be lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time when something catches your ear. Last year I happened by that place when I heard the music of Jonas Gallows, and it’s been growing on me ever since.
Jonas Gallows is the recording moniker of Jez Stein, a 23 year-old graduate from Devon – a farmer and an artist – who recorded this album, The Ear of a Drunkard or Dying Man
, last winter, the coldest on record for more than three decades, and the album certainly captures its spirit: the songs are short, melodic but pared-down, bleak but ultimately hopeful. It’s an intense and deeply personal affair, but somehow it’s also very accessible. His songs have been available for free listening on MySpace for longer than I’ve known the man, but since I’ve had a CD copy and passed it around a few friends, people kept remarking on how much they liked it, how unpretentious it was, its subject matter, and so on. They wanted to know who Jonas Gallows was and were always sounded surprised when I said something like ‘student’ or ‘farmer’.
Sonically I suppose the album taps into that kind of low-fi, electro-indie folk that has become increasingly popular over the last decade. The album demonstrates the artist’s proficiency on a number of musical instruments, but its real talent lies in its ability to bring these elements together over quiet, hushed vocals whilst never losing its consistency or becoming boring. It’s difficult to conjure up a more successful ‘one-man band’ save the The Microphones or Ariel Pink and indeed, there is something of both these artists on Gallows’ album – between the quietness and intensity of the former and the catchiness and playability of the latter.
In the opening track ‘Fight Back!’ Gallows quickly sets up the tone for the rest of the album, singing ‘I imagined it all perfectly / but I never had the guts or the grit or the punch’ but by the end of the song he stresses the need for inner strength and self-sufficiency: ‘Unlike I was taught / I’m gonna do what I want’. A similar effect is achieved on the album’s stand-out track ‘Twenty Two’ with its repeated refrain of ‘and dreams they can die’ – with the death of dreams comes the capacity for facing reality and this would seem to be the concept behind the album – coming to terms with the past and embracing the new.
Jonas Gallows: The Ear of a Drunkard or Dying Man
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