Review Summary: Subtleties, this album has none; and it doesn’t need to
Imitation is often considered the sincerest form of flattery. Not so, in the music business at least. If an artist imitates or tries to capture the spirit of a pre-existing sound, the resonant response is mostly negative. But therein lays a paradox: If an artist takes a sound and expands on it, the echoes of “trying too hard” are then heard. So, as the idea of marketing/copying/expanding increases in this wide bazar of music (fueled by the internet) so does the expansion of genres.
It is exactly this reason that has led to many ignoring Christian Berishaj. The man, formerly known Christian TV, struggling for years to find a niche, discovered that the masses were responding well to Abel Tesfaye, and so reinvented himself and took up the mantle of JMSN. In early 2012 he release a project titled Priscilla
Yes, the dark subject matter exists here. And yes the tales of debauchery, lust, ego and desire all feel well-known, but that’s where the familiarity ends. While his contemporaries, in this new emerging sound, revel in the exorbitance and even glorify themselves, we see JMSN take a different approach, one where he is repulsed by these exact traits, having lived by them and seeks to find a ‘new him’. The symbolism is obvious: shedding the old skin and struggling to do better in a new world.
The album is self-produced, meaning, he captures the exact sound that is demanded from a personal project such as this. While the electro fuzz is present, there is also a heavy presence of instrumentation. The strumming of guitars is very noticeable; heavy thumping of drums, bleeps of clarinets and even a saxophone's melodies are wailing through the motions. And Christian’s crooning. Having a falsetto that could put many singers to shame, his wailing and shrieks are piercing, if nothing else. He balances them with reverb and ambience dutifully, such as on the opener Jameson
. Introduced with reprimanding voice-messages of discerning friends and family, the swirls of violins capture your attention as JMSN laments “Well everyone changes, some of them good, some bad. We make our mistakes and hope we can take them back. We're all trying to make it, why can't you understand? That life is what happens when you're making other plans. As I sit back stare at the glass in my hand”
Subtleties, this album has none; and it doesn’t need to. The music feels like it’s been soaked in whiskey and left out to dry in a battering storm. The pain and anguish of a man seeking redemption is balanced out well with him struggling to let go of past tendencies. Whether it’s questioning the motivations of his partner on Do U Remember The Time
or deploring the state of his existence on ballads, like Hotel
, Christian’s desire and queries sound authentic and expanded. The haunting murmur of Fallin
is echoed by Christian debating his motivations: “I watch the sun fade into night again. Every day just feels the same - And all these drugs won't numb the pain”
There is the banality and repetitiveness of Girl I Used To Know
that seems out of place, while Lights
suffers from over-use of vocal manipulation, burying underneath what could be a composition of hope and perhaps reclamation.
And so we have a young talent, a man looking for a new hope and a new phase in his life. Perhaps the sincerity of Priscilla
might be lost in the future and perhaps Christian might resort to manufacturing the authenticity and honesty, but for now there’s a counter-balance to the hedonism; a regretful man, wanting, but not gaining salvation and it’s bloody damn good to hear him struggle.