Review Summary: A frustratingly patchy ode to the 90s, with some truly great songs intermingled with a bunch of lazy ballads.
The 90’s. What a time to be alive. All that… good stuff. Um, yeah.
So anyway, Audio Jane. They’re basically just a 90’s alternative band that somehow got propelled through time and ended up in 2017. Everything about their aesthetic – from the production, to vocalist Sarah Pech’s voice, to those dream pop guitar tones – screams “this actually came out in 1993, somehow everyone forgot about it but here it is.” Now, dealing in sound-revival to this extent is dangerous; at best, you give everyone a good nostalgia trip (all that... um… good 90’s stuff) but at worst it just sounds dated or trying too hard to be something it’s not.
Fortunately, for the most part Audio Jane do what they do very effectively. Naive
is their latest full-length album and every second of it is filled to the brim with recognisable 90s sounds and textures. Opener “Smile” starts off super laid back, with a slick bassline and single down-strummed guitar chords keeping the atmosphere relaxed. The song is pleasant but it’s not until the whole band kicks in that it really gets going. The title track, however, gets my vote for being the best the album has to offer. It’s pure pop bliss, something reminiscent of Sixpence None the Richer, with its catchy, feel-good chorus and gentle guitar tones. It succeeds entirely due to its simplicity and is probably the closest Audio Jane come to truly evoking the memories of the sound they are replicating.
“Atmosphere” is the album’s first single but it’s somewhat awkwardly placed after “Naive”. I have no doubt that it would have had more impact if placed somewhere in the middle of the album. There’s no doubt it’s a good tune but it’s one that sadly signals a bit of a comedown in quality after the initial strong start. “High on You” is not bad by any means but the chorus, in particular, just feels a bit flat. In fact, this is a recurring problem throughout the record, with promising intros and verses feeling a bit wasted on unspectacular choruses. “Ocean”, though, is less forgivable. On first listen, it seems like a nice change of pace for the record but in the end it’s just far too cheesy and predictable, utilising the same Bikini Bottom-esque guitar lead we’ve heard a thousand times before in ocean-themed songs. Not to say that the album shouldn’t embrace these things – the cheese factor is present in plenty of good pop songs – but here is one particular instance where Audio Jane sound outdated and fail to retain their tight grasp over the nostalgia factor.
“Gone for Good” corrects course with a more exciting sound-change, grungy, distorted guitars kicking in from nowhere. While the effects-driven vocals are slightly unfortunate, the chorus itself is hard-hitting and the instrumentals are livelier than most elsewhere on the record. “Starry Eyes” and “LPS” are both decent but not up to the same standard of anything in the record’s first half. “1000 Miles” unfortunately suffers from the same problem as “Ocean” in that it’s a particularly cheesy ballad, while “Slow” is a dreary way to finish the album. It’s a sad finish to what started so promisingly.
is a good album that should be heard by anyone who has a particularly strong connection to the 90s and the music from that era. It’s really only the ballads that bring the album down, with the rest of the material mostly hitting that sweet spot. If you want a sampler from the album, go straight for “Naive” and work your way from there. While the record as a whole is far from a cohesive listening experience, picking out the good songs is more than worth your while.