Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Recording engineered by Nick Luca at New Monkey Studio, Van Nuys, Calif.
There's no doubt that the lovers that are written into JJAMZ songs are saddled with more tragic ills than they could ever know what to do with. They are people who, through no or just minor fault of their own, consistently find themselves in situations where fire meets fire and there's only enough oxygen and fuel hanging around for one to survive. The people who come into contact with one another in the world that Rilo Kiley's Jason Boesel, Maroon 5's James Valentine, Phantom Planet's Alex Greenwald, exceptional solo artist Michael Runion and The Like's Z Berg create don't seem like they will have any way of sticking together. Most don't even make it through a four-minute song before they've impressively crashed and burned - something that we all should have seen coming.
It's not as if ill-fated love is anything new, but the way it plays out in these songs by the Los Angeles collective is, well, special. These love affairs seem to have all kinds of LA flair to them. The meeting points and starting lines, even most of the middles and the conclusions - with the smoke and the dramatic fade-outs - all have the wonderful feeling of cinema. They aren't scripted, as in they're predictable. They're scripted in that they were lovingly thought out and presented with the utmost care, even if these relationships still wind up disheveled and looking like they couldn't have been more imperfect from the start.
There are two people who have made a suicide pact with one another, only to see the one being sung to break the pact and keep living. There's a couple in "Heartbeat" who used to lie skin-to-skin, intimating familiar with the beats of their hearts. As Berg sings now, if that person can feel her heartbeat now, they need to get away. They aren't wanted that close any longer. She sings later on this session of a "commoner's content," something that we might be able to define as a life of little drama, of not meeting someone and suddenly feeling flung into a whirlwind romance that's going to be too short and not at all sweet. Greenwald plays the male foil on "LAX," when he sings, "So I carved both our names into my pale white chest/Asked you to do the same/It seemed a reasonable request/I nearly lost it when you said yes." It's good that scabs heal, especially after whirlwinds.