Paul Jacks

Tritone Records, 2018

REVIEW BY: Tom Haugen


A longtime member of the Alaska indie-pop outfit Smile Ease, when Paul Jacks goes solo he brings darker textures to a large dose of synth amid settings that allude to legends like Joy Division, Simple Minds and New Order.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

“Laid To Rest” starts the album off with a classic '80s post-punk meets New Wave vibe with shimmering synth and distant vocals, before “My Heart Is A Book” continues with firm synthetic drums, a dreamy atmosphere and a soaring appeal that's danceable yet still quite mysterious. Elsewhere, “Nightwave” gets muscular and playful with a sort of Pet Shop Boys on steroids type of feel, while “Lightning Lobotomy” finds the record getting into more cautious areas of pop, dance and even psych-rock.

Though there are just eight tracks on the LP, Jacks makes the most of each one. Side B offers the quirky and restrained “Thief Of Your Love,” the busy environment of the bright “Spy In Me,” and the ultra-stylish “Mr. Rollercoaster,” which sounds it could have soundtracked any number of '80s movies and carries a haunting, cinematic tone. The LP ends with “Light Year Radio,” a buzzing finish with nostalgic hooks and an undeniable energy that few could resist.

Unlike a lot of current synth-focused sounds, Defractor doesn't sound nearly as robotic as its peers, and even though there are heavy nods to earlier decades, it's still soaked in plenty of modern indie-pop ideas that surround giant hooks, formidable grooves and strong vocal work from Jacks. A unique listen that will appeal to aging punks just as it will pop enthusiasts and even house/ambient fanatics, this is an album that, had Jacks released it in 1986, might have earned him mainstream success. Instead, he's behind a fantastic, extremely well-structured debut solo album that any and all fans of electro-pop, past and present, should seek out and devour.

Rating: A-

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© 2019 Tom Haugen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Tritone Records, and is used for informational purposes only.