Album Walkthrough: Jarryd James walks us through his masterful new album, P.M.
The sprawling second record is an exploration of hip-hop and electronica, arriving six years after his breakthrough debut album.
Header image by Mitch Lowe.
With his debut album back in 2015, Brisbane-raised musician Jarryd James seemingly had his future set in stone. Thirty One - spearheaded by its breakthrough single Do You Remember, which has since become one of the most successful Australian singles of the last decade - was a twisting twelve tracks that plucked from this kind-of indie-pop-esque world, bold with its strong choruses and intimate verses that danced amongst lush instrumentation; the kind of combination that gently evolves through records littering the next few years, or else that's what you'd expect.
Jarryd James, however, took his time - the journey between albums number one and two being a near-six-year fuelled with musical discovery and personal growth; glimpses of which seen on his 2016 High EP and the few singles to emerge since he returned with the Slow Motion single back in 2019. He met with new producers and songwriters - the esteemed Clams Casino, Malay Ho (Frank Ocean), FrancisGotHeat (Drake, Travis Scott) and Joel Little (Khalid, Lorde) - and reflected on the world around him, bolstering his songwriting with deeper meanings and newfound experiences that charged his work with new energies.
Now, he returns with his long-awaited second record P.M., which doesn't just herald the return of a renowned Australian artist hitting a new peak, but also a completely different peak compared to his debut; the record being a shift in direction and sound that you wouldn't typically expect from someone that struck commercial gold the first time around.
It's a dark-lit, late-night display of woozy R&B and hip-hop-influenced electronica, brought out by those aforementioned collaborators in a way that Jarryd James has seemingly adapted to wholeheartedly - and that's something that really shows across P.M.. Throughout the course of the album's nine tracks, Jarryd James explores every facet of this R&B-aligned sound and how it interacts with the intimacy you'd long expect from Jarryd's comforting vocals; his honey-smooth songwriting navigating heavy-handed 808s and airy synth that switch between gentle and vigorous depending on the song.
Songs like Let It Go, for example, feel like a modernised take on Soundcloud's pioneering trap-R&B world; sharp productions contrasting butter-y vocals in a similar vein to heavyweights like Ta-Ku and the Soulection crew. At other times, Jarryd's vocal takes the centre-stage; the two-for-two album openers in Miracles and I Do, for example, feeling like a halfway point between Jarryd's distinct craft and the newfound richness his recent work has been offering.
In saying that, the album's best moment - and perhaps its most unexpected - comes right at the end in the form of Overdue. It's a long-winding six-minutes that feels like an exploration of Jarryd James' journey into this hip-hop world, opening with Jarryd's vocal amongst a backdrop of indulgently rich synth and relatively stripped-back percussion until it switches part-way through, Wisconsin rapper Trapo enters the mix and injects a rushing, rap-focused energy into Jarryd James' sound.
It's the perfect single to end things on; the track itself being somewhat representative of Jarryd's transformation through pop, into R&B and then a potential future path in hip-hop, with his gentle yet fierce vocal being the perfect contrast to the rushing pace that rap features can bring. P.M. is a darker, brooding exploration of Jarryd James' flourishing creativity, and despite the long journey to get there, it's well worth the eventual arrival.
Take a dive into P.M. below, and underneath that, find a track-by-track walkthrough in which Jarryd James breaks down the collaborations and creation of P.M., one song at a time.
The first track on the album but the last one to be written. I deliberate over my songs so much. I don’t write a hundred songs and then choose 9 for an album, I just write 9 songs. I often feel like my last song was literally my last song, and that’s kind of what Miracles is about. It’s basically just me posing the question to my peers, “how the shit do all you people keep on pumping out so much music?” I genuinely felt like I was missing something that everyone else had. But anyway - ironically this train of thought led to me finishing the album.
Made the beat with Joel Little at his house in LA after a week in Nicaragua so we were cooked. Then we finished it off in Auckland maybe 6 months later.
I Do was the first thing I ever made with Clams. We met at some rad studio right down the bottom of Manhattan that was kind of dungeon-like, and I rode the subway there. While I was waiting for the 5 train downtown, there was an old man playing one of those single-string Chinese instruments on the platform across from me. It sounded dope and I recorded it on my phone. So anyway that’s the recording we used to get the session going, and you can hear it throughout the track. Again, Clams is the boss of chopping shit up.
LET IT GO
Did this with M-Phazes at the Nicaragua trip I mentioned earlier. We’d never worked together before so it was a nice experiment, as those writing trips always are. We had about 6 hours to write and record a song, with nothing but some tiny 5” monitors, a microphone that neither of us knew what the brand was, and a fridge full of local TonÞa beers. Anyway we got the song and I drank all the beers.
Made this one in NYC with Malay and Clams Casino. It’s normally just me and one producer so it was a slightly different vibe, but both those guys are so low-key that it still felt right. I played a bunch of drums at different tempos and then Clams chopped ‘em up. Then the next day me and Malay went back in and built on top of it.
Andrew Wyatt produced this one. Started it in NYC also, couldn’t tell you the name of the studio. That trip was a bit of a blur. We finished it in LA at his pad. Loved working with this man. I played the bass in the bridge on a ’78 Fender Musicmaster that I’d just purchased in Brooklyn while I was over that way. Plugged it into a guitar amp. Still sounds cool.
I had made this piece of music myself and knew that I liked it, but couldn’t quite crack it on a vocal level. I was in NZ and got in the studio with the musical god that is Josh Fountain. We had a play around and experimented with some vocal sounds that I hadn’t done before and eventually got it. Another song in the series of my disillusionment and generally feeling out of place.
Wrote this with Joel Little so long ago that I can barely even remember it. I know we did it in LA, and I know we played darts during the session. And I saw a coyote on the way up to his house. But I cannot for the life of me remember the actual session.
I made this beat at my friend Matty’s studio. It is entirely fuelled by White Russians. Joel helped me finish it off because I had absolutely no idea what I was doing.
My favourite track on the album. I still get a bit emotional when I listen to it now. Made it with Malay in NYC. I had been spending extended periods of time in LA leading up to this trip and I guess I was feeling pretty done. The city of Los Angeles can be a strange place for an introvert from Brisbane. Keeping pretty unusual hours and not really looking after myself took its toll. We slowly started to make a piece of music while I drank some gin, and we made what I think is my favourite thing I’ve ever made.
Malay had the idea to send the stems to a beatmaker from Toronto who goes by the name Francis Got Heat, and he had soon sent back the flipped version of the beat that you hear at the end which made it perfect for a feature. We put the feelers out and came across Trapo, an insanely talented young rapper from Wisconsin. After one listen to his album Oil Change I knew he was the dude for it. Honestly I thought he would do 16 bars which I would have been stoked with, but he went ahead and murdered the entire section that we sent him. Blew my mind when I heard it for the first time.
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