Jules Taylor / Mountain Time / May 2018
RIYL: The Forecast, The Shouting Matches, Pearl Jam
Upon first glance at Jules’ Taylor’s debut “Mountain Time,” you would think you’re about to embark on the musical equivalent of a Quentin Tarantino journey. And save for an obvious lack of bloodshed and racially controversial language, the cover isn’t all that misleading.
Throughout the seven songs of Mountain Time, Taylor takes listeners through a western soundscape at an aptly paced gallop. Lead single and album opener “Pining” introduces us to Taylor’s grungey vocal inflections, eerily similar at times (though, thankfully not too similar) to a young Eddie Vedder, a fact my wife would appreciate way more than I. That’s not to say this is a grunge record – it certainly shares some of the same sensibilities, but ends up having more in common with a band like The Forecast or The Black Keys (if watered down to a more appealing elixir).
Musically, Mountain Time is stellar. The production is crisp, and the individual songs ebb and flow perfectly within themselves, a fact that Taylor is keenly aware of, indicating that he “stressed over every guitar tone, every part, every lyric and every new instrument [he] picked up.” It is mixed as if you are watching it unfold before you, live in a country-western-themed bar, which 100% works to its advantage. Despite all that, when laid out in sequence, these moderately-paced songs start to come off a bit formulaic. One might argue that he’s found a sound and he’s stuck to it, which wouldn’t be wrong. But it takes six songs before Taylor reveals he’s more than just a one-trick pony, and when that seventh and final track kicks in, it’s admittedly a breath of fresh air.
It is here, on “Carolina King,” where Taylor trades in his twangy, minor-key-obsessed electric guitar for the gentler acoustic he’s holding so effortlessly on the album’s cover. Neither necessarily suit him better than the other, but that’s kind of the point. It is a small hint of proof that Taylor can branch out of his comfort zone and succeed with flying colors when he gives himself the chance.
Mountain Time isn’t something you hear too often nowadays, and I do mean that as a compliment. This is a record I could see my Dad playing through the stereo while working together in my childhood garage. It’s a record to drive through the flat-plained area of the country with. It’s white-collar in blue-collar clothing. And in terms of a solo debut, that’s as good a blueprint as any to build off of going forward.