Ben Buchnat

Ben Buchnat listens to and reviews music in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Jacob James Wilton is on to something deeper than most alternative emo bands right now. The Omaha group, led by Jake Newbold, features layered sound of guitars with the occasional addition of violins and trumpets.

The group’s newest release “Distant.” is a conceptual record about love and personal direction. going through songs of meditation and cleansing, while maintaining the hooky melodies and crunchy guitar sounds similar to Newbold’s previous band, Super Ghost.  “Distant.” was released on Jan. 12.

“Distant.” opens with “Revelation of Self Elevation,” which, according to the album’s description, is meant to cleanse the listener. The song does a great job of setting the mood with Newbold’s soft vocals crooning over mellow acoustic guitar. When Newbold sings “oh heavy load, let that weight roll off,” you feel as though Newbold is letting his anxieties and struggles go.

The song doesn’t stay soft for long though, as the chorus features booming drums and energetic guitars. Newbold’s soft singing becomes a passionate yell. “Revelation of Self Elevation” turns into an anthemic, life-giving experience. By the end of its runtime, I felt like I could conquer the world.

“Ville De L’Amour” is a dreamy contrast to the crushing power chords of “Revelation of Self Elevation.” The group’s soaring guitar puts me in a wonderful trance, highlighted by Newbold and Claire Delany’s vocals. The pair excelled vocally on this track, and the combination sounds like nothing else on the album.

But what really shines in “Ville De L’Amour” is the instrumentals. The song ends with rolling guitars combing with intense violin. It’s definitely a trip to listen to and shows the group’s experimental side.

The next track “Coat” is the highlight of the experience. The hooky, power-pop jam reminds me of every great song from the ’90s. It has a catchy riff, nice keyboard work and a killer chorus. Newbold’s best vocal performance on the record is in this song. He switches between his clean pop style with a more emo-influenced yell.

“Coat” also contains my favorite lyrics on the record. I love the lyrics from the first verse: “I wanna go for a walk, I wanna turn you on. I wanna give you my coat, I wanna mow your lawn.” It’s that slice-of-life, oddly personal writing style that made bands such as Weezer so successful in the past.

If “Coat” was released two decades ago, it would have been a smash hit. It’s just that good.

“Olive Tree” sees Newbold at his most vulnerable. He sings softer on the quieter track but has a standout lyric in it: “I’ve hit the day when I can’t feel imperfect love.” This is a truly heartbreaking moment in the record, as Newbold comes to terms with his own insecurities and feelings.

The song has a swirling sound with Marina Kushner’s violin making a triumphant return.It provides a somber tone that fits well with the lyrics.

“Waiting” finishes the story arc of the album, with Newbold resigning himself to waiting. The keyboard in this song provides the background for a larger, more epic-sounding song, with the large sounding drums  contrasting well with Newbold’s whispered vocals.

Newbold’s cry of, “I’m only waiting,” carries the song until its final moment, where it explodes into a breakdown of trumpet, guitars and other various sounds. It’s the climax of the record’s emotional build and provides a satisfying conclusion.

Jacob James Wilton has already created a standout record in “Distant.” It’s one of the best releases of 2018 so far and is one of the best local records I’ve heard in some time. If you’re a fan of emo or alternative rock, this is a release not to be missed.

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