David Thomas Jones – Comfort Creatures

A debut record can be a tricky thing to pull off. It’s the first moment you step out into the world and lay your creative soul bare for all to judge. What kind of first impression do you want to make? Fortunately for David Thomas Jones, he’s been involved in so many previous projects (namely Watch Out For Rockets) that he has it all down. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that he arrives “fully-formed” but Comfort Creatures, which officially arrives today, is far more assured than you’d expect to hear from the first record to somebody’s name. And it’s a joy to experience.

Jones is a real talent with an undeniable gift for melody and songcraft, as is evident throughout his debut EP. The record is overflowing with an incredible number of ideas. It plays almost like a Greatest Hits album – each song is great, but quite distinct from the others on the record. Lead track “Our Lives” is a real hit: a great electro-flavored beat, interesting arrangement, catchy melody. It simultaneously evokes placid Hawaiian beaches and frantic modern city life. Its verses lead effortlessly into its understated chorus, giving the whole song a sense of one continuous rush forward.

From there, Jones jumps into numerous directions. “Diced Gold” takes the upbeat pop of “Our Lives” to a more rock-infused place, and “Butcher in the Sky” jumps full-bore into sleazy 70s classic rock. It could be mistaken for a lost T. Rex demo. “Perfect Knots,” though, combines doo-wop with other languid modern R&B styles, and then “The Deaf Words” bring the atmosphere back to a dark garage rock. “Alibi” comes back down to a slow, finger-picked acoustic guitar ballad before ending the record on another pure hit in “Coffin Electricity.” It’s a steady build into a euphoric and irresistible rock chorus.

And yet, each track is more than just these simple synopses, with interesting elements spicing everything up. “Diced Gold” ends on a seventh chord that just refuses to resolve, for example. “Butcher in the Sky” resolves with one final chorus but only after an abstract, ambient bridge gives way to a contrasting rousing rock solo passage. “Perfect Knots” begins with a meandering piano line over what sounds like found footage of a random conversation. Various tape effects color the song throughout. “The Deaf Words” returns after it supposedly ends essentially in order to just skip on one note for a seconds before vanishing again.

Over the EP’s 24 minutes, two things are clear. One is that Jones loves all aspects of 70s rock, but that he has processed those influences into a series of more contemporary sounds. Second is that Jones ultimately is playful. He loves toying with song structure, expectation and recording possibilities. Comfort Creatures, as with the title of the record, takes the familiar and twists it slightly. At first glance we think we know what we’re getting, but then it dawns on us that there’s a lot more beneath the surface.

You can buy Comfort Creatures starting today at Jones’ website or through the iTunes store.

– Carter