Jules Shear and Pal Shazar have broken their silence to make an album – their first together – for grown-ups who have been there, done that, picked up some baggage along the way, but moved on. Love has found a way.
The producer, Julie Last, has a track record including John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s Double Fantasy. It could all be too sugary for words, but their mastery of the song-writing craft means the traps are avoided with deft lyrical turns, harmonies that take unexpected directions and deceptively simple backing with a touch of country – all present in the opening track Beauty to my bones.
See that star has a piano and guitar-driven lilt well illustrated by the stills of a walk in the park in the YouTube video. You can hear the emphasis in the line: “I don’t need anyone to agree with my view of life BUT YOU.”
On Passion flowers, feet are on the ground but the stars “sparkle like rare confections / They fill my eyes like candy bars / They sweeten my recollections.”
Mr softee celebrates “the promise that no-one can revoke, the promise between man and wife” with two cherry cokes. If this all begins to sounds a bit too autobiographical, then Pal’s watercolour illustrations for the lyrics, available as pdfs on their website, illustrate two young lovers to keep you guessing.
The mermaid of Lake Hollywood is a story of seduction: “This lovely fish grants your wish as the warm winds blow across LA from Pasadena.” There’s a small psychedelic moment, a Beatle-ish interlude in the strings and la-la-las , for “this experience is magical, this experience is mythological”.
Like One more heatbreak with its discarded phone book, What you’ve heard about me brings up past lovers and files them under history. It kicks off with a confession straight out of Nashville via the Troubadour: “Come to think of it there ain’t much about love I understand” but confirms “there’s no need to analyse each circumstance”.
Hesitation town is “a state of mind not where you were born” and a gem of a song. A guy has messed up over the wrong girl “now any kindness and your heart might break”. But there’s a waitress who’s caught the eye. “A customer jokes, you hear the waitress a laugh and a crack begins to break your shell / You leave the counter – but this time you’ll look back – just in case she’s looking back as well.”
Shear and Shazar are, like Last, based in Woodstock and working outside the traditional record industry system. They’ve made a timeless album, 10 songs and a rich 32 minutes of reflection and insight.