You don’t expect to hear curse words in the lyrics of a Canadian singer-songwriter, especially when they’re sung in soft, whispery vocals and accompanied by sweet synth pop melodies. After all, our neighbors to the north have a reputation of being polite.
But Vancouver’s Jay Arner gets away with it, reputation intact. His understated swearing and wry commentary that abut wispy harmonies and mellow grooves are a fitting way to tell his not-so-serious story of wanting to be accepted and lamenting suffering in the world.
The seemingly tongue-in-cheek style, as well as the tug-of-war between pleasant, catchy tunes and deadpan, discordant lyrics, are reflected throughout Arner’s second solo album Jay II, which came out June 2016 on Mint Records.
“The theme of Jay II: the problems of a sensitive indie rock man are ridiculous in light of anything happening in the real world,” according to Mint.
“Fuck all the rules / Feels like I went back to school,” Arner gently croons in the album opener “Back to School,” that hearkens back to 1970s Pablo Cruise. The dreamy tone and twangy guitar almost mask the words until they are repeated as the chorus.
“I’m sick of overthinking / Who gives a shit / I’m over it,” he sings in “Like a Dracula,” in which he is an outsider “just dropping in on the cool boys’ club.”
Jay II continues with Arner experiencing conflicted sentiments on his path of self-discovery. His social struggles surface time and again, but we cannot be certain he cares all that much. “I’m trying to get on your good side / It’s so boring,” he sings in “Street Freaks.” “I don’t want to go / You know, I probably should go,” again, he’s conflicted in “Personal Line.” If we want to know how he feels, we can call and ask him directly because Arner gives out his phone number repeatedly in the chorus on this track.
Arner plays most of the instruments on Jay II, with the exception of masterful keyboards by Jessica Delisle. The two play together on a separate project, Energy Slime.
The video for “Personal Line” announces the band’s US fall tour dates, and features the dance stylings of Vancouver comedian Graham Clark. Arner has been playing shows almost nightly since September 30. He will perform at The Night Light in Oakland on November 11.
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