Those lucky enough to catch Jacob Golden’s live know just how extraordinary he can be armed with only an acoustic guitar and his angelic voice. His self titled debut EP in 2001 bottled some of that magic but his debut long player, Hallelujah World released in 2002, partly obscured his natural gifts under electronic experimentation and production effects. It also failed to find an audience.
Disenchanted, Golden moved from London back to his native US, but then suffered from writer’s block. Eventually his muse return and aided by a field recordings approach where tracks were recorded in such places as his bedroom and hallway, underground car parks, art galleries and even a studio toilet, Revenge Songs is the album we dared hope for.
The opening reverb drenched “Out Come the Wolves” is full of quiet menace and stream-of-consciousness lyrics, eliciting goose bumps and setting the tone for the remainder of the disc.
The OC featured “On a Saturday” with good reason — the song is a gem in an album full of knockouts and one of the few to feature a full band. Revolving around a simple piano melody the London centric lyric ends with handclaps and the romantic refrain “I want to sit and watch the girls in Soho square/I fell in love so many times just sitting there.”
It’s back to basics with “I’m Your Man” relying on acoustic guitars and multi-tracked vocals name checking George Harrison, Haruki Murakami, “Norwegian Wood”, and After The Gold Rush. “Church of New Song” kicks out the jams for the rockiest song of the album attesting to the almost spiritual power of music: “When the church of new song came and my headphones lifted me up again.”
The rollicking “Shine a Light” and haunting “Revenge Songs” mark a return to etherealness of “…Wolves”, while “Shoulders” with its bitter verses and uplifting chorus is another highlight. When Golden questions “Is there someone there to carry you on their shoulders?” you just want to reply “I’ll carry you Jacob!”
“Love You” ventures into dark rock-jazz territory, as if Jeff Buckley was backed by Twin Peaks era Angelo Badalamenti, recounting a tale of a doomed long distance relationship. “Hold Your Hair Back” answers “Shoulders” plea for support in a similar Elliot Smith-like fashion.
The closing “Zero Integrity” is so intimate you feel like a priest hearing confession. “A sellout doesn’t value his own song,” Jacob sings, but if you’ve learnt nothing else while listening to Revenge Songs, you’ve realised that integrity, like talent, is something Jacob Golden has in abundance.