While Nick Jaina's previous release, The 7 Stations was a jangly folk-pop record, his new album, Wool is a more foreboding collection of acoustic songs that seem to drift in on the ether. They crackle and buzz with haunting undertones made of bowed cymbals and resonating bells. It's a beautiful mix Jaina says is best listened to while drifting off to sleep. "Turn on some white noise, like a humidifier. Don't feel bad if you fall asleep before it's over."
Wool opens with the somber "Maryanne," an ode to a child who died at birth. Jaina builds the piece with rumbling timpani, brushed drums, bells and a shuffling piano progression, all set against his own weathered voice. It's a template of sorts for the rest of the album. All of the songs on Wool are piano-driven, often recalling the work of Randy Newman. Jaina seems inspired most by New Orleans rags and circus dirges, a perfect sound for capturing the creepy-beautiful or lovely-dark.
"I go looking for that darkness and I find hope," says Jaina, from his Portland, Ore. home. "When I hear a song that just talks about how sunny and light the world is and doesn't acknowledge the darkness, it feels dishonest. I don't think I dwell on the darkness or wallow in it. I just want to identify the parameters, to know where we are."
The featured track, "Bicycle" was one of the last Jaina wrote for the album. It's a wistful meditation on the beauty of the moon, with some gorgeous, other-worldly textures created by musical saw, some wind and a squeaky crank. "It's really just an honest expression of wonder at the moon," says Jaina. "Trying to find the right way to describe it, and not feeling that any description is ever adequate enough and starting over again and again. And the feeling of being humbled by the beauty of the world and the beauty of other people and the small things that you can do to be a part of all that."
Jaina has grown tremendously as an artist in the two short years since his last album. He's found a sound that's lush without being over produced. His chord progressions are more inspired and unpredictable and the instrumentation is nothing short of magical. On Wool Jaina has created the kind of world that invites you to linger and, while you're there, wonder at the mysterious beauty of it all.
Download this song in the Second Stage podcast.
Yesterday's Second Stage artist.
Email host Robin Hilton.