On first glance at Health’s new album DEATH MAGIC, my inner voice was yelling each track …
This album captured my attention for several reasons, my first thought about it being a simple one: “I love Jameson whiskey and new music.” As relatively irrelevant as that fact is to the album, I hope the honesty enriches the ethos of this writing and ensnares your attention, because the album is good enough to read about. Honestly, it surprised me.
It is no secret to anyone reading this article that Portland is saturated with new bands; our city attracts creative people and facilitates an extreme abundance of opportunities for their music to be heard in bars sodden with microbrews served alongside intimate stages. You’d be hard-pressed to name to a local band that is less than two years old that hasn’t played in one of these bars on a Tuesday in front of 15 people. It’s part of the natural process. Some of these bands put out an EP. And some are OK. Fewer are good. As a new band, of course, Jameson & the Conditionals play those venues; however, what sets them apart from the herd are their full-length albums — the most recent being this spring’s Saucytown Back Catalogue Vol. I-III.
Jameson & the Conditionals’ new album is smooth like heavily buttered alfredo. The production is well-blended and clean with soft tones filling your gut before you’re finished. The sound is a puree of a wholesome rhythm section, spunky-funk guitar riffs and well-matched horn and keyboard accents that support the melodic jams. Their songs are derived from the sparkle of ’70s grooves and bone-fortifying hymns. It’s undoubtedly an album meant for car speakers on long road trips, deserving of freedom outside our black-mold-wall-dive-bar-music-scene (said with love). Imagine the hum of your tires on the freeway harmonizing with the movement of the songs’ composition. It’d create warmth like your vinyl record player. The velvety friction is pleasant and the uniform consistency bends the space-time of 30 miles to five minutes. Getting lost in the steadiness is easy.
For the sake of honesty I will be a paradoxical dick wad for a second and say: Jameson & the Conditionals’ strength may very well be their weakness — to a very certain degree. Their consistent warmth doesn’t yield any songs that jump out as particularly or individualistically extraordinary, i.e. there is no obvious “hit.” The album is homogenous.
That said, there are three or four stand-outs and, for me, one song that separates itself from the others is “Mama Said.” Part of reviewing albums is listening on a loop for a few hours, and “Mama Said” is the only song that immediately makes me think, “Oh, it’s this song. I know this song. I like this song.” This is largely due to the band rearranging its equation variables by kicking off with a hymn alone rather than the rhythm section and guitar introducing us to the piece.
But don’t fret (pun intended); while there may be no singular song overachieving on the album, the songs are consistently good to great, and there are no bad tracks. This is extraordinary in and of itself; a new local band has already produced multiple albums in a relatively short amount of time that are good all the way through. Their prolific dedication makes me think they will graduate from making good albums to great albums very soon. You’d be wise to check them out sooner rather than later.»
– Billy Dye