The Jazz June
by Chad Jewett
Raise your hand if you saw this coming. I know I didn’t. Last we heard from Pennsylvania emo band The Jazz June it was 2002 and the band was carving complicated ultra-modernist angularity out of components as varied as ambient electronica, alt-country, and mid-Atlantic post-hardcore. That album, the difficult and beloved Better Off Without Air, was a closing chapter of taut minor-key nerviness. “Over Underground,” a track from their upcoming split with Dikembe and their first new song since Better Off (depending on how you count the extras-and-rarities material from 2007’s The Scars To Prove It), is warm where Better Off was icy, distant; extroverted where their 2002 swan song was defined by anxiety, walls closing in.
The song begins with singer/guitarist Andrew Low in a conversational mood: “How come I can’t ever seem to get through to you? / Every time I open my mouth you just cut me off…”. Guitars variably chime and trickle beneath (or, more accurately, around) him, a bed of sylvan indie pop that reaches out in green splendor like a wild lawn. There are analogues – Maritime, There’s Nothing Wrong With Love, Superchunk whenever they’re in “blissed-out-afternoon” mode (indeed, the long stretches of lead guitar underline that link) – but more important is the glimpse we get of The Jazz June at their most expansive, more willing to embrace the brightening possibilities of their entwined aesthetic.
Indeed, while the mathematics and the deep worry of Better Of Without Air have been streamlined and cheered up (and replaced by a charming grumpiness), there is still a lovely tangled quality to “Over Underground” as guitars bubble and blossom in counterpoint, as grace notes spark along the song’s intrepid forward pop motion. “Over Underground” arrives like the rare, gracious second act wherein it feels like The Jazz June is welcoming us back as much as the reverse.