Jeremy Gloff has stepped into his own with 21st CENTURY LOVE SONGS. To call him an indie artist is like calling Billy Cobham a fusion drummer or Freddie King a Blues guitarist; true but it falls way short. Each of his previous albums showcased different phases and influences, with his latest album he's transcended those influences as if they were all leading up to this one. Both his writing and performing have reached a new level of maturity. Gone is the frantic cramming , filling every space possible. This new album leaves room to breathe, giving more impact. This may his real debut because it's likely that whatever he does next will grow from this newfound maturity.
The album opens with JANUARY '09, vaguely reminiscent of John Mellencamp's MR. HAPPY GO LUCKY with its eerie background voices, before a trebly bass guitar ushers in ASOCIAL LOVE SONG, setting the tone for the album. The piano and pounding toms of SQUARE ONE draw the listener into the world of 21st Century Love Songs, while a keyboard riff vaguely reminiscent of Bruce Springsteen's DANCING IN THE DARK set to a 16th-note groove brightens the mood slightly on THIS CONDITION.
21st CENTURY LOVE sums up the theme of the album. Several verses detail the inhumanity of an era lost in digital gadgetry, numb to contact with other humans and oblivious to the trials of the times, punctuated by the hook line "Can you feel it/We're so boring". Future generations will have a heart-on-sleeve time-capsule to experience the beginning of the 21st Century.
COKE AND ECSTASY restores the lost humanity. A gentle piano-based ballad with sparse accompaniment comparing a lover to a drug; "the high comes and goes so fast/And then I go crazy". The late-night 'chill' vibe is intoxicating. OH SWEET BOY brings the now trademark bass back to the forefront to drive a laid-back, hypnotic groove. Minimalist instrumentation is accentuated with guest vocalists and a surprisingly effective harmonica.
Once again a 16th-note beat picks things up. HEY GIRL highlights the 80's Pop influence but like the rest of this album it's merely one influence in a larger tapestry. JUNE '09 is the second "short". Two clean, twangy guitars recalling Chris Issak paint an ethereal picture that gives way to the masterpiece CLOUDS, the track that embodies the musical culmination that is 21st CENTURY LOVE SONGS. The main influences in Gloff's musical stew are 80's Pop, Dance/Electro and Indie songwriters. His previous albums each showed once side or the other. On this album, and particularly this song, they have at last fused seamlessly into a single cohesive musical style that is distinctly Jeremy Gloff. He calls it Intellectro Indie and that's a pretty accurate description.
The piano and clean-toned guitars of the intensely personal ONE PHONE CALL evokes Mellencamp's more adventurous collaborations with outside producers. The melody's undeniable hook and the lyric's poignant story of friends who took their own lives and the people they left behind cuts to the bone. Gloff has often said he hoped his songs would be soundtracks for other people's moments. ONE PHONE CALL does one better.
The soundtrack feel registers with CHRISTINE. This song should be in a movie, preferably by an indie director who would have better taste than the corporate automatons that run Hollywood. BROKEN PIECES is another ethereal piece that belongs on a movie soundtrack.
The album's sole cover is Jill Jones' SO MUCH IN LOVE. Gloff has been one of Jill's most ardent supporters for many years and dedicated his previous album, the 80's Pop tribute 1987, to her. When he played a show in New York in 2008 the Brooklyn-based Jones joined him onstage to sing this song as a duet. Someone had the good sense to videotape it for posterity and the clip has been viewed by many on the Internet. It seems fitting that he would record one of her songs. Besides a close friendship, her influence is strongly felt throughout this album. Like Jill's work on TWO and WASTED the backing vocals are no mere padding of harmonies but an instrument unto themselves. Jill Jones is one of the few singers who can pull this off and Jeremy Gloff is the only one to carry it on. His thoughtful arrangement of her song with soft touches of flute and violin seems as much for the friend as for the song itself. It whets the appetite for a collaboration between the two of them.
FROM AFAR eases the album towards a gentle conclusion in 3/4 time bringing to mind earlier albums like AMERICA IS LONELY TONIGHT and NOW'S THE RIGHT TIME TO FEEL GOOD. DECEMBER '09, the last of the "shorts", brings the album to a close. Fairly close to the opening "short", but instead of charging the listener up it brings them down with a gentle afterglow. Once again flute and background voices are both somber and ethereal.
It is every artist's goal to grow out of their influences. When starting out heroes and influences reflect different portions of ourselves and we learn by emulating them, just as babies learns to talk by emulating their parents and other people around. But if an artist is to shine they have to go beyond their influences and take the idiom(s) someplace only they can take it. Jeremy Gloff has made Indie, Electro and Pop albums before. Each stayed more or less in one mode. For the first time he has blended all of his influences into a single cohesive tapestry only he can create. With 21st CENTURY LOVE SONGS he's achieved one of the most important goals of any artist. He's also matured by trimming away the exuberant excesses. Lyrics, melodies and instruments are given space to breathe. They're much more effective as a result. It's easy to hear this album as a culmination of all his previous albums, not to mention that it perfectly sums up the historical era from which it emerged. But more importantly he's made an album that speaks for itself.
-by J.J. Vicars