“Everything Under the Sun” by Jukebox the Ghost (No. 65)
The band behind today’s album may have the distinction of having the oddest name in the entire lineup. Naming aside, the trio produces amazing piano-based pop, and Everything Under the Sun is a fantastic snapshot of their work.
The band consists of Ben Thornewill (piano, vocals), Tommy Siegel (guitar/bass, vocals), and Jesse Kristin (drums). If the band hadn’t opened for the Barenaked Ladies, it’s entirely possible I’d have never stumbled on their work. Luckily, I got there early and was totally blown away from the start of their set onwards. I picked up both albums from the merch table immediately after the set, and was not at all disappointed when I got home.
Everything Under the Sun is frenetic and bouncy from the start. “Schizophrenia” is off like a rocket with rapid-fire piano, keyboards, and Siegel setting down solid guitar riffs. Kristin is all over the drums, like the offspring of Keith Moon and Ringo Starr.
“Half Crazy,” continues the theme started with “Schizophrenia” with a fairly angular and choppy feel to the guitar bits, while Kristin plays at breakneck speed. The band also knows how to build a song that takes you on a rollercoaster from ludicrous speed to comforting lull and back again.
After two high-energy pieces, the band slows it down slightly with “Empire.” This one is built for audience call-and-response, and works great live. The interplay between drums and piano on this song, and throughout, is deeply satisfying.
At times I catch influences from Little Richard, Queen, The Beatles, and many others in Jukebox the Ghost’s music. At the same time, it’s never derivative and always interesting.
“Summer Sun” starts with lazy piano and a bass drum beat. It sounds like it’s going to be a ballad, but then morphs into a rocker and then into gentle fade.
You might think a three-piece band would sound fairly stripped-down, but JtG is quite the opposite. They’re capable of creating quite the wall of sound in concert, and their studio work is amazingly lush. “So Let Us Create” is mostly piano, soft drums, and vocals, but it’s incredibly rich.
Let’s take a second to talk about the band’s lyrics. Like a lot of pop songs, they sound a bit more profound when sung than when on the page – but the band still has a way with words that has a lot of heart. Consider some of the lyrics to “So Let Us Create”:
Isn’t every day exactly what we make?
And often on the same day
We’ll make the same mistakes
Let’s get to know them then
Let’s get to know them then
So let us create
What we need each other to be
And I’ll be what you need
For me to be
“The Stars” is another impressive piece of work. It’s all over the place, in a good way. It’s optimistic and apocalyptic. It’s high energy, but occasionally ponderous. The drumming on this one is particularly impressive.
And then there’s “The Popular Thing,” which I defy anyone with any love of pop music to listen to without getting it stuck in their head. The piano breakdown towards the end of the song is masterful, and the chorus is impossible to resist.
From start to finish, Everything is a perfect collection of indie/pop/piano-pop music. It’s hard to categorize, but also hard for me to imagine anyone who could be immune to its charms. Take it out for a spin and you’ll probably agree.