Change has always been a big part of Alaskan musician Paul Jacks’ work, the act of transitioning from one musical structure to another, from one emotion to another of equal relevance. Looking back over roughly 20 years of music, it becomes clear that Jacks has a particular affection for sound that inhabits these middle areas in our psyches. From his time performing with Smile Ease and Asteroid to his solo albums, the constantly adjusting musical aesthetics have allowed him to disassemble the boundaries between the various influences he interprets and adapts.
“I’m constantly on a journey of learning, and trying to create a new sound and explore,” explains Jacks. This is especially evident on his upcoming album, Amphibious, which he recorded with producer Alex Newport (Death Cab for Cutie, Bloc Party, At the Drive In), and with whom he’d worked on previous single, “Foolish Pride”. Shifting directions away from the new wave impulses of 2019’s In Other Words and the grim dystopian landscapes of 2020’s Black Jackal, Jacks wanted to focus on themes of rebirth, revision, and transformation.
With the addition of Jason Searle and Leo Abrahams on guitar, Dylan Mandel on drums, and with Alexis Mahler handling the string arrangements, the album took shape quickly, with production taking place from mid-June to mid-July of 2022. Amphibious is a portrait of an artist as he examines his own creative processes and how best to adjust his own approach to various musical forms and attitudes.
On his new single, “My Love Has to Ask”, Jacks searches for meaning and affection while divining the influence of Motown pop hits like “You Can’t Hurry Love” by The Supremes and “I Guess I’ll Always Love You” from The Isley Brothers on his own rhythmic trajectory. The drums have that great melodic martial beat, and the groovy bassline (provided by Newport) is further evidence of how genres are constantly tweaked and realigned through Jacks’ unique musical perspective. The strings are gorgeous but don’t impose their own importance, recalling the underappreciated work of Motown arranger Paul Riser. The track is a clear love letter to that time and to those sounds, revealing Jacks to be both a student of these foundational sounds and a proper interpreter of their complex histories.
Listen to the song below.
Paul Jacks’ new album, Amphibious, is due out tomorrow, May 3rd, on Tritone Records. Follow him on Facebook and Instagram.