reviewed by Michael Thomas
That Jesse Nakano (Space Classic) can put out so much emotionally vulnerable material in such rapid succession is nothing short of remarkable. Since Following Through, Nakano has put out a record a year, each delving deep into his personal life. As we can see from his explanation for Bruised Rib on Bandcamp, there are less cheerful things to consider here. He talks about dealing with depression, people changing and moving on, and even his own struggles with faith.
But through all of this, he’s not alone. That’s what makes Bruised Rib so different, as evidenced by his unique list of credits—he not only says which person played on which song, but he also thanks them for being good friends and names specific kind things each person has done for him. I’ve noticed a robust spirit of collaboration in Edmonton and it’s nice to see so many great artist pitching in.
These guests also add new dimensions to his songs. His dream-pop sound is anchored by spacey synths and the occasional guitar, and on his own he’s still quite compelling. “I Know What It’s Like” starts off the album with a hell of a first line, which comes after a long instrumental intro: “Are you lonely right now? ‘Cuz I know what it’s like.” The video-game-y background helps match Nakano’s feelings laid bare. On “Bachelor Parties” Nakano is especially brooding. Ostensibly a warm, nostalgic song about his friends getting married, it becomes increasingly clear that the titular bachelor party is both joyous and a reminder that things have changed and will continue to do so.
One example of a guest taking his songs to a new place is “Hard to Submit,” which features Liam Faucher (Soft Violence). This song is about Nakano’s aforementioned struggle with faith, and with Faucher’s vocals, the song sounds less like brooding and more like straightforward anger. It’s a great change of pace. Recall, featuring Upper Lakes, also makes Nakano louder.
His guests can make him softer, too. “Ash” has Nakano’s brother CJ contribute a verse, and it makes the song about grappling with anxiety feel like a problem the two of them can solve, rather than something Nakano has to face alone. “I Kind of Doubt It” is a sharp left-turn instrumentally, with a jazzy, almost hip-hop synth line backing up a song about a particularly hard breakup. Jiggy K does a verse on the song and it feels like he’s there with an arm around Nakano the whole time.
When times get tough, you have your friends there with you to share the burden. Nakano continues to spill his soul with his music and it’s a relief to see that he has a strong community to be there for him.
Top Tracks: “I Know What It’s Like”; “I Kind of Doubt It”
Rating: Proud Hoot (Really Good)