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Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Jaymay: "Autumn Fallin'"

Inevitably, the first time I ever hear an artist's music, I'm waiting for a moment; a single moment that will make me fall in love with them. If that moment never comes, it's rare that the artist will stay in my memory for long. For Jamie Seerman, here known as Jaymay, that moment came at about 1:40 into the opening track on her debut album, Autumn Fallin'. She sings of waiting on a man to "make the first move" so to speak, saying, "I'm giving you the lead, so go on. Go on and take it. Don't fake it," before delicately whispering, "shake it." A shaker soon adds to the instrumentation and wide smile shoots clear across my face. I love it!

Jamie is a rarity in music these days. She manages to write intricate lyrics of specific moments in her life, utilizing every last detail to paint a clear picture of what she's trying to convey with her music. Such a task would do a lot of musicians in, so it's incredible to me that her songs are not only lyrically impressive but musically impressive as well (not to mention catchy as hell). On album opener, "Gray or Blue," for example, she sings of a "boy" that she's interested in but doesn't have the courage to approach. She notes the color of his eyes, his mouth, the shape of his hands and body, and in doing so is able to convey the depths of her attraction without relying on cheap descriptors.

She's oddly specific with her lyrics as well, and they read like diary entries or poetry that you write and stash away in a drawer, never showing a soul. So while a line about a conversation in Grand Central Station or "Super Keith" emblazoned on a cup may be completely meaningless to the lister, the mere fact that she brings such things up proves her words as honest recollections rather than empty words. In fact, the true relatability of Jaymay's songs have nothing to do with the lyrics but the emotion and feelings that go behind them, that she brings out with her voice.

But enough about lyrics. Lyrics can only take an artist so far. Thankfully, Jaymay rarely disappoints on Autumn Fallin'. Her voice is lovely, and I can't help but compare her to Fiona Apple in that department. It's not near as deep or powerful, but it is jazzy and smooth. It fits the quaint nature of her songs perfectly. The albums first single, "Blue Skies," sounds like a first single; complete with increased production and a loud, energetic refrain. It is a great song, and definitely one of the album's better tracks, but it's not necessarily indicative of the remainder of Autumn Fallin'. More often than not, Jamie's voice is only complemented by an acoustic guitar and some light drumming. "Sea Green, See Blue" is a gorgeous song that doesn't need a catchy chorus to delight (Jamie simply hums a melody where the chorus should be, to great effect). At over 6 minutes in length, it's far more ambitious than other pop songs out there, and with a delicately played saxophone, rhodes organ, and strings, it's a lot better as well.

Title track, "Autumn Fallin'," tells of a lost friendship. She sings, "I believe it was you who I wanted to be walking next to. And I believe we were friends, and I believe we will be again." It's a short, but effective song that sidesteps the boy-girl relationship theme that is touched upon quite often on the album. "Ill Willed Person" is one of my favorites, with a passionate performance from Jamie and a sing-along quality melody. In the chorus she cries, "Love everything you've always loved," repeatedly in a voice that seems more raw and real than what we've been presented to up to this point. It's so refreshing and beautiful that repeat listens are inevitable.

But Autumn Fallin' has it's share of missteps as well. "You'd Rather Run" is almost 10 minutes long, but by 5 I found myself wanting her to wrap things up. The melody never really changes, nor does the organ-driven instrumentation that surrounds it, and as a result it gets tiring fast. The lyrics, however, are among the album's best. She sings of what seems to be an ex-lover with whom she's not on good terms, noting, "Was there ever a moment, one small slice in history, when I took you seriously? When your belt and your shoes did not announce your poor taste so fearlessly? Cause that's news to me!" Ha! On "Hard to Say" she actually scats, which actually fits her voice, but not the rest of the album. It's worth listening to, but come's scatting!

Overall, however, Autumn Fallin' is a surprisingly impressive debut. Jaymay is one of the most talented songwriters I've ever had the pleasure of hearing, and for that, her few missteps are easily overlooked. The songs on this album are soaked in earnestness, and over the course of the past month I've found myself singing along and loving nearly every second of this fantastic debut! Jamie Seerman is an early candidate for Female Artist of the Year, and judging from her competition, she may just wind up with that (completely meaningless) title. Listen to a few samples and decide for yourself, but in my book, Autumn Fallin' is a must-buy!

Key Tracks:
1. "Gray or Blue"
2. "Blue Skies"
3. "Sea Green, See Blue"
4. "Autumn Fallin'"
5. "Ill Willed Person"

8 out of 10 Stars

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