Just Jack comes back with What We Did Today
The man behind the classic ‘Starz in their Eyez’ has released brand new material for the first time in eight years, Just Jack’s latest record 'What We Did Today’ is a solid return to form from the singer, rapper, musician, and producer.
The new album kicks straight off with a synth and funky guitar riff, staples of a contemporary indie sound, in ‘Annabel’s Dilemma’. However, Just Jack sets himself apart from the usual indie style, bringing elements of pop, rock, funk and disco across the album. The artist discusses the struggles of a woman's relationship and talks of Annabel wanting more from life, an age-old tale but told through Just Jack's unique lyrical style, he moves between rapper, poet, and singer. ‘One in Three (Better Alone)’ is my favourite song on the whole album. We've heard Just Jack do disco before, most notably with 2007's unforgettable 'Starz in the Eyes', but with this track Just Jack takes it to the next level. With a faster Arctic Monkeys-like bassline and a CHIC-like guitar riff, there is a sound here that wonderfully blends indie rock with disco, and then some! Half way through it seems that the track is coming to an end, with a slowed down section that feels like a cosmic homage to Adele's 'Hometown Glory', however this is just a build-up in the track to a fucking incredible breakdown. The bass riff seeps back in, supported by a bongo tease, and then the saxophone solo kicks. Suddenly, 'One in Three (Better Alone)' transforms into an instrumental disco breakdown that wouldn't feel out of place spun on the decks at Studio 54.
The third track, ‘Venus Walks’, sounds like a gentle combination of M83’s electronic sound with The 1975's 80s style guitar pop - the title appropriately hints at this ethereal spacey sound. One of Just Jack's strongest vocal performances can be heard on ‘River Song’, with the backing vocals also by the singer. This is a track that harks back to 'The Day I Died', it’s a hip-hop song with a melancholic yet upbeat chorus, a pleasant horn section appears later on which could have easily been from a Groove Armada tune. The following song ‘Get Your Shoes On’ has those classic indie vibes with a guitar style reminiscent of foals, supported by a funk bassline. The rap verse in 'Get Your Shoes On' discusses English life and culture (there's a class reference to watching Attenborough with a glass of lemonade, anyone who watches Blue Planet II will appreciate a night alone with Sir Dave). It's great to step back into the world of Just Jack and remember how comedic his writing is, rhyming a few lines and changing the expected rhyming pattern at the last minute; Just Jack sings 'I just want to go home and get...' which you expect to finish with 'high' but he changes it to 'some sleep'. One of my favourite lines in this track shows Just Jack laughing at getting older whilst still being playful - 'Daddy got drunk on the weekend / Tried to bust some moves like MJ / Still be paying for it in 10 days' - What We Did Today is full of British humour and colloquialisms.
There’s an acoustic number in ‘No Cause For Alarm’ with soulful melodies and beats, it's a testament to Just Jack's ability to move between genres, whilst keeping the quality of his writing and production consistent. What We Did Today seems like an album that could have a long-life span into the summer of 2018, with funky dance tracks (like the nu-disco influenced ‘Krush’) that would be mega fun on a sun-kissed day at a festival. You can just picture ‘Too Young / Too Old’ being performed on a main stage, which has a reggae meets ska vibe, - the horn section would sound wicked with a full band. Just Jack knows how to utilise humour to make references to British festivals and culture, which he does on ‘Undesirable Element (Lovebox)’ - the man is all about having a good time with his disco biscuits, despite what any police officers may assume.
This is an album that journeys through many different takes on English life, using a wide variety of beats, melodies and creative samples. It’s an indie pop album filled with disco & funk styles, teamed up with a horn section and superb selection of strings. What We Did Today is a nostalgic look back to indie music of the 00s but forward thinking towards the funk-infusion of modern pop. Not many artists from the 2000s era of teenage Topshopper's have been able to come back with music that feels similar yet contemporary, usually they sound outdated or simply not at the top of their game anymore. Just Jack does the opposite, there is evolution in his sound, refinement in the production, and quality in his writing. What We Did Today is a delayed return from Just Jack, they say absence makes the heart grow fonder, well the music on this latest album comes 8 years after the last record, and boy was it worth wait. Welcome back Jack.