Album Review: Jacob Shipley’s “Last Respects”

NEW YORK – Releasing his latest EP, Last Respects, on May 26th, singer-songwriter Jacob Shipley demonstrates in five songs how well he’s honed his abilities at arranging, performing, and singing. Taking listeners across a myriad of flavors within the indie-rock genre, Shipley has produced a record that contains chill, atmospheric tones, as well as bombastic ones, utilizing instruments that range from a more traditional rock format, to unexpected ones, like horns and strings.

A count-off starts “Waiting,” and thus the record. What quickly follows is an undeniably strong groove and the melody instantly the strength of Shipley’s vocals. Nice drum fills set alongside well-crafted chordal fills and extensions round out the song really well. The chorus has a minor quality to it, establishing room for what turns out to be a great, albeit short, guitar solo. Taking the song to its conclusion is another guitar interlude. A fantastic album opener, with just the right amount of energy.

Featuring quite the dip in energy with the following song, “Civil War,” it’s definitely a hard-left turn in sonic direction. That being said, it’s a well-written acoustic waltz, with some interesting chord voicings; the string part floating in and around the mix also adds well to the overall sound. It can be risky metaphorizing conflict with a civil war. When it works, it really does– the last time I saw it work prior to this was in the extremely well done but abstract film, The Banshees of Inisherin. I digress; it works here as well! The only thing for this track, is I wish It were a tiny bit longer; it feels there might be more to mine here, lyrically speaking.

Another acoustic number, “Pockets” details the connection between two people. “But soon you outgrew the space that I had made” is quite an interesting, relatable – yet somehow unique – lyric. This song is rich with very unusual metaphors that outline someone outgrowing a relationship, with the narrator not loving them as they are, but wanting them to fit their own image of their desires. The almost spoken-word realization of “people don’t fit inside of pockets,” is an effective way to end this track. Instrumentally, the song is captivating, utilizing an extremely Beatles-esque major and minor chord progression, along with a well-performed ostinato electric guitar part.

With “Spirited Away,” track four, incorporating the higher parts of his register, Shipley sings a melody bordering on falsetto for the majority of the song’s opening section. While the acoustic guitar is the main instrument in the beginning, there’s a brief pause in the lyrics, breaking way to the full-band entering the mix. Upbeat in tempo, it raises the energy back up to a level similar to the opening track. The abrupt ending was an effective arrangement choice. Like the rest of the record, there’s a consistent level of quality in the lyrics.

A very percussive acoustic guitar part begins the closing track, “Spain.” Nicely and unexpectedly, listeners are soon greeted by horns in the mix, along with a full-band instrumentation. The song oscillating between a rolling-along rhythm to more of a snappy, percussive one, occurring in accordance with the various sections, is quite enjoyable. As the horns build to a climax near the end of the track, we’re greeted with a very tastefully-performed groove, in which all instruments perform the same clave rhythm. It is such a terrific payoff to the build-up, taking you out of the song to soaring new heights. Another aspect of this song that can’t be understated is how Shipley demonstrates the level of control he has in his voice; falsetto, chest, and head voice, it’s all displayed incredibly well on this track. There’s a lot of sonic information in this song, and I can think of no better way he could’ve ended the album.

Not only does Jacob Shipley have a firm command of arrangement, and instrumentation, his command over metaphors and storytelling is also worth noting. Prior to this record, I’d not heard of the singer-songwriter, and in just five songs, he gained a new fan. Those who indie-rock will most likely get a kick out of Last Respects! Check it out for yourself here!

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