Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Mike Gentry
Nick Jaina's made really good records in the past - really good records. We've involved him here on a number of occasions for such reasons - these really good records. But he's made a spectacular jaw-dropper in the just released "A Bird In The Opera House," an album that startles and makes you swoon to it and its easy beauty. Its songs are full of delicate loves and the troubles with them, floating on flimsy clouds and negligent stars/moons and sentences, working themselves into heady folk country as well as undeniably sleek and ruffled pop in the style that George, Paul, Ringo and John used to make way back when. It's an album that is somehow entirely his own and yet incorporates some of the finest young songwriting voices and styles into these dozen songs of widespread texture and discourse. There are elements of Vampire Weekend's Ezra Koenig, Luke Temple's new Here We Go Magic project and more, affecting us in a way that feels like tickling feathers and tickling fires, like a night cast as a tipsy lover, and a lover that still has us entranced by every movement and every syllable. It's also a lover who's not at all completely figured out - still shaky and still a bit of a mystery, even after all this time. We're going home with that lover - it was going to happen like that anyway - but it all feels perfectly in place.
"A Bird In The Opera House," dances along with wonderful upright piano fills, economic guitar sections and organ parts that give us the sweet spots to shine with Jaina's soothing vocals and a host of delectable backing harmonies that melt in your mouth. There are all these touches of familiarity and yet all these turns of phrase and peculiarities that make a record marvelous and inspiring. A line like, "Orange trees bloom and wilt with the fortunes that you bring," from the slow burner "Days In My Room," grows your heart and settles you into a comfortable seat and somehow reminds you of loved ones you've lost, and comparing them to the seasonality and growth cycle of a silent orange tree makes it all seem okay, as if it can be dealt with. He sings about the reasons for drinking heavily and for throwing parades and shutting down the streets in "Officer Shoppe," the coping mechanisms that are more like throwing sheets over the evidence. He sings about smoking through stolen apples and he incorporates so many considerable flourishes of color and space that we feel as if we're listening to one sharp-shooting poet laureate who happily shies away from the bright lights. He sings, "It doesn't matter what you do/I'm blindly in love with you/It doesn't matter how you feel, how you stand or how you kneel/What you set your watches to/I'm blindly in love with you/It doesn't matter how you feel, how you stand or how you kneel/What you lead your horses to/I'm blindly in love with you," on "Another Kay Song" and we're immediately - two songs into the record - witness to a masterpiece.