Sunday, August 30, 2015

Album Review: Jasmine Cain - White Noise

As a critic, it's easy to get hyped up for the next major release from one of the big-name bands that you know you have to write about. The PR machine swings into gear early, and there's no way to avoid hearing every little detail up until the release. The problem is that, while the music can be great, you know that the corporate till is thick enough that those artists will never see your words, and even if they do, they will fly out of their heads without a second thought. That's why the most rewarding experiences I've had as a writer involve independent artists, where a relationship can form where we have mutual respect for one another. Finding a great independent record is always one of the highlights of my year.

Jasmine Cain comes to us as one of those independent artists, a singer and songwriter bringing us an album of heavily melodic rock that fills a very important void in my ears. But we'll get to that specific comment later.

The album opens with "Coming In Hot", where you can immediately hear the thick guitars as they play a simple but easy to latch onto riff, and Jasmine's vocals come in with a killer tone. Her voice is a touch deeper, with just a hint of roughness around the edges. It's perfect for giving the music a rock edge, even when the songs are more polished. It's a catchy little opener, but I'll admit that it might be my least favorite song on the record. That's not because it isn't good, but rather because the rest of the album kicks it up into another gear.

The title track is an aggressive cut, with a ton of energy carrying through the bouncing chorus. The emphasis of the composition puts the focus on Jasmine, which is a smart decision, both because she delivers on the melody, and because her voice is the standout feature of the sound. Great singers should never play second-fiddle to a band, and Jasmine is out front and center dominating this album.

With those two tracks out of the way, we hit the stretch of the album that I absolutely love. Starting with "Break Even", the songs tone down the rock aggression just a bit, and bring the melodies to the fore. That makes them a touch more inviting, but more than anything, it gives Jasmine more room for her melodies to stick. All these songs have big, catchy hooks that remind me of growing up listening to the radio in the mid and late 90s, when big guitars and big hooks were the formula for success. She remembers this too, as evident by the song "1995", which pines for those exact days.

The album closes with "Fall To Rise", which features a guest vocal from Steel Panther's Michael Starr. This is the best song he's ever sung, and the first time I'm convinced of his talent. Without the sophomoric comedy to hide behind, he has to use his voice, and the grit in both his and Jasmine's voice give poignancy to the track, and bolster the emotional heft. It's a great song, and a masterful use of getting the most out of a guest star. But as great as that is, my favorite song on the album is "Fool's Gold", which has a massive, massive hook that is nearly impossible to ignore.

And that brings us to my initial observation. "White Noise" is a really good album that bridges hard rock and pop, but it's even better when you factor in how well it fills the hole for exactly that kind of music that Halestorm left this year. There are similarities between Jasmine and Lzzy's voices, and "White Noise" feels like a record that could easily sit next to former Album Of The Year "The Strange Case Of..." in a discography. Jasmine has made a record I was waiting to hear this year, and it definitely hits the spot. If you like pop-laced hard rock, "White Noise" will be music to your ears.

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