jakob martin city of the nameless review

Jakob Martin won't remain nameless

Mark Fisher music reviews Jakob Martin's City Of The Nameless

[rating:4/5]

(4 out of 5 stars)

Release date: Apr 5th, 2009

Members: Jakob Martin

Standout songs

St. Frankenstein
Long Drive Home
Thaw

No way.  There's just no way this kid remains unknown.  That was my first thought after seeing Jakob Martin live.  Then I spent the next day cruising around the Santa Cruz mountains on a gorgeous Sunday morning listening to his previous two EP's and taking in the California coast from a distance.  Result?  Initial opinion confirmed.  Roger that, ghostrider...too much talent, too many musical chops to remain incognito for much longer.

To be sure, Jakob Martin has a solid following already and has some impressive credentials, having opened for Blues Traveler and several other notable acts.  So, when I say "nameless" I only mean it in the broadest mainstream sense because he has done well making a name for himself in music circles on the West Coast.  City Of The Nameless is Jakob's third album and is a stripped-down, four song tour de force that showcases all his talents: he plays the guitar, piano, and harmonica with equal skill; his voice is mad-crazy good (a la Randy "for-me-for-you" Jackson), and his songwriting ability is second to none.  The resulting combination is a brief, but thorough, glimpse into the world of a savvy artist who creates intimate, thoughtful, and soulful music.

The disc starts with "November Night," an anti Eric Hutchinson "Rock and Roll" story about two people dancing around each other but not quite getting to the point.  Jakob's voice is shown off here, winding through the melody in and out of falsetto.  The song is also richly textured and very catchy with organs, ska guitar, and mellow harmonies that give the song a bluesy, down-low feel.

"Long Drive Home" is a beautiful, lazy tune about working through the angry fights and stubborn posturing that intimacy brings upon us, tailor-made for hopping in your car on a warm night, putting the top down, and reminiscing about the reasons you fell in love in the first place.  Jakob's acoustic guitar riffs and well-crafted slap-picking harken Jack Johnson and John Mayer in style and flow perfectly into the meat of the song which features some soulful harmonies and soft percussion. Bonus: it has a mid-song rap by Stepchild The Phoenix and if there is a better name for a rapper out there, I haven't heard one.  To hear Jakob tell the story of his first phone call to the erstwhile rapper is hilarious: "Uh, hello.  Is Stepchild The Phoenix there??  Yeah, yeah, this is Step.  Ohhh, Step, right, hey it's Jakob."

Next up is "Thaw," a gorgeous, haunting song about overcoming love lost and the difficulty of moving on.  You can literally feel the ache and loneliness as he sings, "If this is how it's gonna be all winter, I best get used to feeling raw.  'Cuz when you fall out of love and time is unfrozen, the heart takes the longest to thaw."  Jakob's artfully crafted song and his guitar playing here turn this lyrical gem into a brilliant composition.  And the use of accordian is a masterful choice, evoking the loneliness of late-night Parisian bars and empty streets -- the kind of atmosphere ripe with scorned lovers, turned-up overcoats, and gray skies.

The disc rounds out with an up-tempo acoustic tune called "St. Frankenstein" about the dichotomy of the GREAT CITY of San Francisco.  This song truly showcases Jakob's full capabilities: the composition is crisp and catchy; the touches of slide guitar, harmonica, and keyboards that accompany the main guitar each find their place perfectly; the chorus is ready-made to sing at a high decibel level (skill level not required), and the song pulls you in and keeps you captive until the last note.

[At this moment I find myself singing: "I still ache from the weight at the station, I'm as green as the grass in my lungs, yet I'm alive with each new inhalation, Every time I breathe I believe in love....and we are feeling famous."  I'm telling ya, you will, too.]

I also had the good fortune of hearing Jakob at a small gathering of about 40 people around a fireplace on an evening when the meteor showers were peaking - a wonderful backdrop for an intimate, acoustic performance.  And Jakob took full advantage.  From the moment he took the stage with his acoustic guitar, harmonica, and piano, the audience sat captivated and listened as he skillfully went through songs from all three of his EP's.  And this brings me to my only gripe...

My only fault with this disc is actually an omission of sorts: for selfish reasons I wish Jakob had included "Providence" from his full-length album Masking The Mirror.  Having had the opportunity to hear it live I can't imagine someone not being pulled into Jakob's music after hearing that song and as a get-your-name-out-there EP, it would have made a great addition to City Of The Nameless.  But do youself a favor and check out this disc as well as his others. 

Jakob Martin's three albums can be found online here at iTunes and you can visit his website www.jakobmartin.com for information on tours, etc.

Peace - Mark