Quebec City based singer/musician/vocalist Jeremy Rice’s nine song collection Jeremy Rice and the Legendary Fist of Takinawa is an individual and stylish effort unlike much of what I’ve heard in 2019. Rice isn’t a newcomer to the world of commercial pop songwriting; Jeremy Rice and the Legendary Fist of Takinawa is not his first solo work and previous stints with bands like Timescore, The Sellouts, and The Thymes long since established his reputation as one of the more creative songsmiths inhabiting the indie scene today. The new release underlines his talents in a more emphatic way than any previous effort.
His voice presents an immediate challenge for listeners. It is more effective with the stricter pop tracks included on this release than it is the more guitar driven numbers, Rice acquits himself well with those performances as well, but his idiosyncratic vocal sound has more of a natural fit with the album’s pop-infused confections. “Johnny Rogers”, the album’s opener, introduces newcomers to his songwriting skill and serves notice to existing fans that the same inspired snappiness pervading his earlier releases remains intact on his newest release. Rice draws credible characters with only a handful of lyric brushstrokes; the writing demands your attention as it isn’t often we hear young modern performers revisit familiar themes and archetypes with such individual perspective.
The second track “Arrilanne” is the first single and an engaging romp even if the jagged guitar riff plays a little incongruous beside the straight-ahead tempo and Rice’s pinched nostrils vocal style. He pulls a surprising amount of rock music rabbits out of his hat throughout the course of this album but they never upset the diverse balance of the release. “Somebody Like You” is the album’s second single and burns with pop shine unequaled by any other similar track on this album. It isn’t particularly original, in some respects, as Rice is mining a rich vein for songwriting going back countless decades, but he manages pouring old wine into new bottles with a degree of freshness and musical sparkle few of his contemporaries can match. The accompanying video for the single is simple but defined by the same idiosyncratic style he brings to his songwriting. It is a lyric video, as many are today, and utilizes many appealing colors to make it an enjoyable viewing experience.
“Underneath the Ground” is another example of Rice’s unusual talents for slapping a new coat of paint on existing pop formulas. The straight-ahead percussion of this track gives the heavy presence of keyboards a solid foundation and it generates palpable energy despite the mid-tempo pace. The title song is a guaranteed crowd pleaser thanks to its kinetic rock energy though, once again, Rice has a voice that can sound a little misplaced in rockier terrain, but he turns in a credible performance during this fast-paced number. It is refreshing to hear how Rice’s take on rock music remains so light-footed and never succumbs to the heavy handed stomp of lesser artists and acts.
“Goodbye” is an outright ballad closing the release with a musical attack coupling acoustic instrumentation with shimmering keyboard textures. It includes one of Rice’s best vocals on the release and he strikes an affecting sensitive note for the album’s final curtain. Jeremy Rice and the Legendary Fist of Takinawa has something for every listen while still sounding personal and deeply felt.
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