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Jaill - That’s How We Burn

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Artist: Jaill

Album: That’s How We Burn

Label: Sub Pop

Review date: Jul. 27, 2010

Hipster baiting album art aside, the four men from Milwaukee who go by the name Jaill sound more like a bar band amalgamating pub rock with the Paisley Underground than the next indie darling. Their sound fits their story. Lead singer Vincent Kircher and drummer Austin Dutmer formed Jaill eight years ago, but flew under even the local radar until they released There’s No Sky (Oh My My) in 2009. A short but finely-honed set of slightly Midwestern college rock (read: non-grunge alternative that “rolls” as well as rocks), There’s No Sky attracted the attention of Sub Pop’s head of A&R, who subsequently signed Jaill to the label.

Jaill’s indie-major debut, That’s How We Burn, further refines the strengths of its predecessor — tight, no-nonsense songwriting and straight-ahead arrangements with tinges of jangle and psych. Kircher’s voice may be two shades nasal of threatening, but it’s sufficiently adult and nondescript that it allows Jaill to tear through taut, mildly twanged, guitar-centric rock without gimmicks or missteps. The resulting sound may be indistinctive, but it’s just as unimpeachable.

Too steady for “highlights” as such, That’s How We Burn is nevertheless brimming with memorable tunes. Opener “The Stroller” is a blistering anthem that sounds like Interpol made tighter, faster and grittier, and its follow up, “Everyone’s Hip,” is a sun-shinier take on flannel-clad aggression, complete with “ooh-wah” backing vocals and a refrain — “I know everyone is hip”—that begs for a sing-along. “Thank Us Later,” perhaps the most country and western moment, begins with a moaning lead then rides a backbeat groove until its gently stomped refrain: “I see it in your temples and it’s giving me the nervous shakes / Why are you telling me lies tonight?”

“She’s My Baby” brings out the similarity between Jaill and Harlem, the garage-punk band that has recently debuted on Matador and with whom Jaill is friendly. Like the rest of That’s How We Burn, however, “She’s My Baby” displays an urgency and precision that is absent from Harlem’s blissfully sloppy “Be My Baby” and Hippies in general. The bands may be kindred spirits, but Jaill clearly consists of the long-laboring craftsmen, Harlem the wanton exploiters of an (admittedly effective) aesthetic.

Appropriately, it’s the imprints of compactness and consistency — more than any one guitar run, hook, lyric, song or stylistic stamp — that mark That’s How We Burn. Kircher and Co. are not overnight successes or hitchhikers on the zeitgeist’s caravan. Nor do they mark fresh cultural or aesthetic divides. But hardheaded position-takers on all sides would be curmudgeons to resist Jaill on a Friday night at their nearest watering hole.

By Benjamin Ewing

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