Pop music as a whole has been head over heels for surrealist influences lately, but honestly, if you’re looking for the meat and the potatoes of the aesthetic to be done right, you should check out the new Jonathan Emile album, Spaces-in-Between, ahead of the competition. Spaces-in-Between is a reggae record with an intellectually-stirring bend that transcends the standard creative limitations of genre altogether in several instances, but at its core lies the warmth of a singer/songwriter who doesn’t need labels to define who he is as an artist. Whether you’ve heard his work before now or not, this is an optimal way of getting to know the man, the music and the unfolding story of Jonathan Emile.
The single “Try a Likkle More” was what originally attracted me to Spaces-in-Between, and with its sly harmony, who could really resist its charms? Emile’s voice is guiding the gentle ebb and flow of the rhythm right from the start, and when he isn’t singing, the instrumentation is forming a nice little blanket of harmonies for us to bask in as we await his return to the spotlight. It’s a killer reggae jam, but more than this, it’s proof of his credibility as a composer.
Jonathan Emile includes two collaborations on Spaces-in-Between – “More Than You Know” with Ezra Lewis and “Liberation” with Chanda T. Holmes – which have a couple of overindulgent elements that could have been left on the sidelines just as well and not hurt the flow of either song, but they’re not left unbalanced in the tracklist at all. “Rock & Come Over” and “Emptiness” are a picture of efficiency by comparison, and together I think all four songs make for a strong foundation for what could be an aesthetical profile on our star’s abilities as a singer more than anything else.
It’s been said by other critics prior to now, but I think it’s worth stressing all the more on the strength of “Babylon Is Falling – 3.0,” “Canopy” and the album-opening “Keep On Fighting” – Jonathan Emile is one heck of a singer, and his confident approach to lyrics is something to be marveled at. I actually think he sounds more comfortable and relaxed in this trio of tracks than he ever has before, and if you take the time to explore his deeper discography, you’ll know just how big (and true) a statement this is for any music journalist to make.
Fans of Jonathan Emile and contemporary indie music both old and new alike can’t go wrong in acquiring the sensational new LP Spaces-in-Between, which I’ll say is the first truly great reggae album of 2020. Emile isn’t selling out his artistic cred in this latest release; on the contrary, I would say that he’s digging in and positioning himself as a pillar of his genre in a way few other players in the underground have these past few years. Something tells me this is just the beginning of his odyssey, and in time, we’ll all know for certain.
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