In his third studio album, American singer/songwriter Jake Allen doesn’t just create an intriguing contribution to what is already quite the fascinating body of work – he reaffirms himself as a pop-minded player and composer who isn’t afraid to get a little provocative if it means advancing an intimacy listeners usually can’t find on the mainstream beat. Allen touches on potently balladic acoustic territory with songs like “Two Faced,” progressive conceptualism in the title cut and thoroughly evocative, poetry-based songcraft in “Living Ghost,” but no matter what he’s playing in Affirmation Day, his performance bears the confidence of a genuine star.
The strings steal a bit of the thunder away from the vocals in “Rising Tide,” “On the Run,” “More Than Meets the Eye” and the versatile “Clear,” and I think it was really wise to put as much of an emphases on their output in this master mix as there is. The percussive element in Affirmation Day is surprisingly muted in comparison to what the melodic components are giving up at the forefront of any given track, but considering the physicality they’ve been granted (and this includes the lead vocal), it actually makes a lot more sense and forces us to focus on miniscule details we might just as soon have overlooked.
As moving as I found all of the instrumental complexities in the aforementioned material to be, the vocal Jake Allen is laying down in songs like “Only You,” “I’ll See You On the Other Side” and “Indigo Son” is definitely the biggest star of the show. You can tell that he’s been working on refining his technique a lot in the last few years, and if you were fortunate enough to hear his 2018 record in Deviant Motions, I think you’re going to be pleased to find that many of the conditioning strides he made with that LP have been left mostly intact – if not strengthened – here.
I would really love to hear “Things We’ll Never Find” and “Prague 6” live and in person for myself sometime, as they definitely have the right blueprinting to be expanded into something a lot grander in front of an audience. There’s a lot of hinting at larger than life art-pop themes in the bones of Affirmation Day, but rather than trying to outgrow the studio while he was still in it, Allen was smart to give us a basic idea of what this material is and can inevitably be in the right circumstances.
Whether you’re a longtime follower of Jake Allen’s work or are just now discovering his music for the first time this fall, Affirmation Day is definitely an LP I would recommend taking a peek at if you’re in the mood for something on the alternative side of the mainstream dial that doesn’t automatically devolve into political diatribes or anti-melodic sludge right out of the gate. This is a very meticulously-arranged collection of songs certain to please the masses, and with the right exposure, I think it could do a lot for this singer/songwriter’s career.
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