Jaunt

REVIEW: Jaunt - Cue

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Phillipe Roberts

With Cue, Jaunt exploits the EP format to its fullest, sampling caught-from-the-air melodies liberally while exercising tasteful restraint, knowing when each elegant idea has run its course. Tirelessly catchy with an expert ear for the seemingly nonsensical oddball songwriting twist, the band leaves you hanging on every note, riding a constant wave of discovery as each song refuses to wear out its welcome. From top to bottom, ambient outro included, Cue unfolds like a singles collection; a Now That’s What I Call Experimental Pop hit parade with replay value galore.

No matter how you slice it, the dominant mode of Cue, the roots and rhythm of the project, is R&B. Whether it’s the depth of the pocket on “Best Case” or the sultry choral vocals on “Faster Interactions," the Isley Brothers-style shuffle of “Machined” or the detailed backing harmonies of “Intimate Sunset,” Jaunt keep it grounded in the groove, even as they push it into left field. Fans of Hundred Waters or Dirty Projectors will feel right at home here, though the beats on Cue are funkier than anything Longstreth and Co. have put out in more than a few years.

Jaunt’s take on the genre chases melodies into a corner and lets them fight their way out. Ideas rarely loop more than once before mutating into inviting new forms. The penultimate track, “Faster Interactions,” bends its riffs to the breaking point, sometimes abandoning them altogether for stranger pastures. Group vocals jarringly glide down into a lower register before landing on a cushion of electric organ. Video game sounds double up the drum hits in a segue towards a rumbling bass synth outro, a kaleidoscopic whirlwind of rhythm reminiscent of the best of Stereolab on Dots and Loops. It’s truly boggling how many transformations occur, but even more stunning given the track’s three-minute runtime.

These slight runtimes—“Faster Interactions” is the only track to even crack the three-minute ceiling—will have you dragging the dial back again and again. And although none of the songs feel “incomplete” per se, Jaunt’s tendency to French exit just as your mind latches onto the hook will absolutely leave you wanting more, launching you into a bit of an addictive cycle. The almost-title track “Cued” is the record’s main offender, a gorgeous bit of digital vocal riffing dancing atop a hauntingly beautiful layer of swooning cinematic synthesizers. As it floats to a one-minute finish, you can’t help but feel a sense of helplessness at having been teased so perfectly. Putting a picture-perfect slow jam banger intro at the end of a record is malicious, cruel, and utterly brilliant—the kind of move that will have you scrambling to pre-order the next episode.

In the midst of this double-edged generosity, there’s “Intimate Sunset,” perhaps the one track on Cue where Jaunt’s contemporary sensibilities take a back seat to cozy nostalgia. A gentle, '60s-inspired folk tune, the track gives up the misdirection and sticks to wringing every drop of romance out of those chords. It’s a patch of firm ground, tucked between the shifting fault lines and earth-quaking juxtapositions before and after, but it really shows off just how flexible Jaunt are becoming in their stylistic evolution, exposing that their quirky turns aren’t simple ignorance, but calculated leaps away from the intuitive “right” way. Cue is a real treat of a record, a delightful adventure in opening up the senses. Comfort food spiced to perfection.

REVIEW: Jaunt - Chat

Kelly Kirwan

Damn. Jaunt is laying the groove on thick with their latest EP release, Chat—a six-track set of lo-fi bedroom pop that teeters into early-millennial rhythm and blues. Oh yes, we even have Usher and Alicia Keys lightly sampled on two respective tracks, as currents of soul charge the otherwise gentle sway of their work. Jaunt’s group portrait is all smiles draped in white linen, the kind of photo that seems like a tongue-in-cheek ode to JC Penny portraits of awkward youth (or is this just my experience?). It’s a nice representation of the quintet that’s followed the traditional family progression—if not in numbers alone, as Jaunt started as a two-piece outfit working out of Hamilton, Ontario. But seasons change, styles develop, and now we have a Toronto-based five-piece that knows exactly which buttons to press to set us adrift in the sweet haze of their beats, while taking the occasional detour into tales of crestfallen isolation. Like all good tricks, it’s one that Jaunt pulls off covertly. Chat is breezy listening whose message isn’t as misty as the slight distortion of their beats.

Chat, as you may have guessed, is nonchalantly centered on the pitfalls that haunt modern communication. It’s a theme that’s front-and-center in Jaunt’s single, "Hello," which also focuses on an "outdated" phone and the struggle to converse between two receivers. But, whereas Adele gave us a ballad, Jaunt delivers a pumping baseline and a drop of percussion pulsing under a sweet, quasi-call-and-response falsetto. Its corresponding video depicts a curly-haired protagonist gathering the strength to call someone via landline—the camera diving into the mechanics of the phone, and then cutting to the two (estranged?) characters finding each other among lightly fluttering, pink sheer curtains. They embrace, but then movements turn unnatural—sped up, palms pressed to head—before we return to our first girl, whose receiver emits nothing but a dial tone. And there’s the rub. This flit of images was likely a narrative of her imagination, and despite all the mediums we have for reaching out, we are still prone to isolation.

Then there’s "Comfortable," a slower, slinkier melody with complex vocal arrangements reworking the 2001 hit "Fallin'" against a gentle, psych-electro backdrop. Jaunt riddles the track with urban ambiance (a passing automobile and the distorted dialogue often associated with a phone line breaking up) as a feminine chorus weaves itself throughout the background. The whole song mingles a certain lust and loneliness, feeling like a heady homage to height of slow jams. Jaunt knows just how to work their plush pitch and electronic inclinations, instilling in us a sense of longing and setting a sensual mood. Their lyrics dip into blues and their sound seems to capture the metamorphoses of R&B and neo-psych in a relatively short span of minutes. Again, damn.