Album Review: Jade Imagine – Cold Memory

[Marathon Artists; 2022]

“When it’s a heavy time you gotta get light somehow.” That’s Jade McInally on “Get Light”, one of the cosier highlights from Jade Imagine’s sophomore album, Cold Memory, and it encapsulates the essence of what the band capture in their music. They want to be that very light, that moment of ease in a world on fire. When the Melbourne band hit all the right pleasure centres, their music can feel like wrapping your hands around a warm cup of cocoa on a winter’s day – or perhaps a simple towel after a dip in a cold sea, the experience of which inspired the title track here. It’s a cold memory, but Jade Imagine like to warm the blood.

The best examples of this are the opening and closing tracks. “I Guess We’ll Just Wait” opens the album with a gorgeous slice of dream pop, languorous slide guitar notes lifting you off to a pillowy domain. It might be something of a sumptuous red herring on Cold Memory, but it does a perfect job of luring you in for the journey. At the other end of the record, “Lines” is a low key fireside song that feels like a dream state kicking in gradually, woozy synths colouring the edges and breathy backing vocals incanting softly. 

As easy to sink into as these moments are, the real takeaways are perhaps the ones where the band steer themselves in unexpected directions and paint with darker hues. The title track is the best example of this with its burrowing bass during the verses, highlighted by the clatter of bell-like percussive touches. In the chorus it straightens up and veers into a sonically contrasting place, going for a simple indie pop sheen and hook. The juxtaposition is akin to swimming about frantically underwater in a dark sea then gasping for air in the sunlight. It’s dynamic and interesting, keeping the listener on their toes throughout the song’s four minutes.

“Down To Us” comes off like a sibling to it, the textured percussive touches washing away in the background as echoing little guitar notes tease the song along. As it builds though, a slow groove emerges with just a hint of an eerie glow hanging over the track at the end. These darker shades are a welcome outfit for the band, keeping their music from stagnating in sunnier sheens and autumnal colours. Even just the way a rippling synth line takes over at the end of “Grow Taller” feels like an inspired moment; what begins as a handsome enough duet with Nile Marr (whose voice sidles up pleasingly with McInally) turns sour in small instances across the song. 

A downcast ode to staying in a place where you feel most comfortable (that may or may not be a nod to another Melbourne band, Zone Out – the uncanny similarity of the cover art seems like an homage at least), “Stay In Ur Zone” leans into McInally’s deadbeat delivery as a psychedelic tinge creeps in at the song’s edge. “Instinct That I Wanna Know” is a tightly wrapped number with a vibrant buzz (fitting too since it’s tribute to “feeling spiritually in sync with those closest to you”) and when the piano and bass interlock on “Home” it makes for a likeable rubbery rhythm section. These are surface details though, and though McInally has a perfume-like allure at her best moments, she often doesn’t leave you wanting to explore the music on a deeper level. 

But this is comfort music for the most part. There aren’t any expressly bad moments on Cold Memory, but sections of it will leave you indifferent if you go looking for rewards. Jade Imagine work best when you let the lure work: get caught on the laid-back enchantment of the opening track, and let the rest of the album colour your background for 36 minutes. The more dynamic moments will perk up your ears, and others might evoke a sense of calm and familiarity. This is a warm blooded album, meant to warm the listener too, but you have to sink into it passively to get the best heat from it.