Jesse Aycock’s voice is nasal, and almost sad, and his songs are mellow, the product of a great storyteller in no rush to finish his tale. Taken together, they make Aycock’s self-titled album feel like a trip to a small town, where the pace is different and the experiences feel richer for it.
Aycock, the person, is a fun mystery. His album cover is a blurry drawing of himself. The Tulsa-based sideman also doesn’t have much of an internet presence. He has a Bandcamp page, but his personal website uses the default template of a digital agency. One has the feeling that it’s either because Aycock either doesn’t see the value in a personal site, or that he’s playing a prank on the world, booking clients for his pretend online business, the clients none-the-wiser that their digital agent is really a soulful singer-songwriter.
The song’s 13 tracks are usually low-key. “Woodland Park” is sweet and surreal, rolling piano lines and sweeping pedal steel wrapped in a dreamy haze as Aycock’s sing-song vocals bob through the track. Strings eventually come into the tune as a soundscape builds, not quite clashing with the song, but also feeling like part of a different album cut seeped into this one. The effect is like a daydream that takes you away until something snaps you back into the moment. “Passing Days” has a John Lennon-esque sadness, and a melody reminiscent of his “Jealous Guy.” There’s a raw lap steel break that picks up where the vocals leave off, achieving an intensity Aycock doesn’t use with his more relaxed vocals. The juxtaposition of the two moods creates a compelling tension, though.
Aycock also has some faster songs. “Shed the Light” has a fun, poppy 80s veneer. Between Aycock’s rhinal timbre, the chiming guitars, and the charming melody, it’s easy to mistake this for an early Tom Petty tune. “High Hopes” is fast and garage-y, Aycock rocking out over a catchy riff, even squeezing out a guitar solo, which, because it’s Aycock, is another opportunity to inject more melody into the song.
If you’re looking for high velocity rock and roll, Aycock’s album probably isn’t for you. And while he’s a talented multi-instrumentalist, handling everything from guitar to lap steel to keyboards to Mellotron, he’s not looking to dazzle anyone with hot licks. He’s a pure songwriter looking to make his songs as beautiful as possible. Jesse Aycock has some rocking moments, but he mostly seems interested in letting his songs slowly unfurl and reveal themselves to the listener.
The Review: 7.5/10
Can’t Miss Tracks
– Woodland Park
– Under the Gun
– Passing Days
– High Hopes
– Shed the Light
The Big Hit
– Shed the Light