A lot has happened to Vincent Kircher over the past three years, not all of it good. Not only did his band Jaill leave Sub Pop after two well-received but commercially lukewarm releases, he’s also lost two-thirds of his original lineup. No one ever said being in a band is easy.
Working largely from the ground up with a new lineup in tow, Jaill’s fourth album, Brain Cream, understandably carries the weight of Kircher’s plight, and the singer spends much of the record positioning himself as his own worst enemy. If there’s any doubt that he’s shouldering some blame for the rollercoaster ride of the past few years, read into the lyrics a bit. “I help my loved ones get away,” he laments on “Getaway”. “My love, it’s gonna destroy you again,” he prophesizes on “Change Reaction”. As far as song titles go, “Got an F” seems pretty self-explanatory. Elsewhere there are references to bleak winter mornings, days spent “high as shit,” and other dreary signposts that similarly point due south. Kircher’s jaded headspace can feel downright toxic at times — or at least it would if the band’s music didn’t prop Brain Cream up out of his funk.
Jaill has always demonstrated a knack for quirky juxtaposition, but rarely has it been as stark as it is here. If the record’s lyrics make it sound like a miserablist’s dream come true, the band counterbalances things with a jangle pop sound that tinkers with surf (“Picking My Bones”), ’60s pop (“Just a Lovely Day”), and quaint psychedelia (“Slides and Slips”). Even the lackluster-sounding “Draggin’” can’t get away from the airy sweetness that canvasses the record musically. This all throws a little shade onto just how caught in the doldrums Kircher really is, but that just makes Brain Cream that much more of a curious trip.
Essential Tracks: “Just a Lovely Day”, “Got an F”