Taking the good with the bad is at the core of Jaguar Sun’s debut album, This Empty Town.
I don’t think I’m alone in feeling as though days in COVID-induced isolation have this way of simultaneously staying completely still and slipping through your fingers. You sit down with your coffee on a sunny Saturday morning, and then realize it’s 2pm and all you’ve accomplished is watching the patch of light on the living room floor sneak toward the kitchen. Our days are both spacious and static, which can feel like either a gift or punishment, and often both.
Listening to Jaguar Sun’s blissfully meandering new album, This Empty Town, I know he gets it. The debut album from Chris Minielly takes stasis in stride, seeing it as an opportunity to revel in this collective, suspended moment. Following the energetic opening track, “Red”, Minielly leads us into a more reflective space with “Keep You Warm”. What starts as a vast and still sonic landscape gradually builds momentum that tumbles forward effortlessly. “Keep You Warm” seems to be both a meditation and an affirmation, acknowledging the imperfect while vowing to continue on.
Taking the good with the bad is at the core of This Empty Town. “Those Days” is sunnily sad, while “Grey Skies” names this listlessness so many of us have become so familiar with: “I need a change/but these days all feel the same”. Similarly, nostalgia and a longing for what once was plays a central role on the album’s titular track; “This Empty Town” highlights Jaguar Sun’s folk influences with a comparatively stripped down, murmuring guitar line. Minielly’s vocals here are chant-like, as if he is trying to summon some bygone past into the present. Reading the title of the closing track, “Next Year”, evoked in me what that phrase likely evokes in many people these days — cautious optimism, uncertainty, trepidation. However, I was heartened to instead hear a song rich with hope, movement, and self-assuredness.
What I find especially striking about Jaguar Sun’s sound is how perfectly balanced it is, as if every snare hit and synth effect are exactly where they should be. This feels like a solid debut for Minielly, and what the album may lack in variety and risk, Minielly makes up for by having a clear and grounded artistic voice. A strong sense of self is not always a quality we hear in a debut album, but it is certainly a quality worth celebrating.