James Lewis Speed – Belated Father’s Day

What’s this? This is what happens when you listen to a bunch of folk and folk-rock and you start thinking musically inside this folky frame. You pick up a guitar and that’s all that comes out. You sing like this naturally and your lyrics are so insane, you can be sure no one will ever try to understand what it is you are actually talking about, although there are plenty of deep-sounding emotional one-liners. This stuff is addictive, it can consume hundreds of hours of your life listening to people none of your friends ever heard about, listening to sounds produced by these tortured souls of which you either don’t know anything or you know only little bits of quirky information, like “his dog was ran over and his girlfriend turned out to be a dude”.

That might be just a shell though, provided by instrumentation. There is a lot of influence from 90’s alternative rock as well, somehow in the melodies, in the musical structure, but mostly in the electric guitar parts that embellish the acoustic guitar’s simple but effective background. All of us guys who grew up in the 90’s are starting to make music and it shows where we came from. The feeling and the lyrics are folk though, it’s not like I have to rewrite the first paragraph or anything.

So who is this James Lewis Speed guy? Google doesn’t care about him and all his bandcamp says is stuff like “It was recorded with a very crummy acoustic”,  that it was all recorded over 2 days “because of his father” and that some of the lyrics are about his friends. All I have to work with is the music and that’s just golden. This is not the place to grow even more tired of bullshit celebrity dick-riding in your music reviews. Following my folk instincts though, I went look for lyrical clues of a personal tragedy of some kind. So I saw “I am Morals” and I thought, oh, maybe he has morals and that’s the problem. But not really, the song is just as crazy as most of the other ones. When you start thinking you now understand what is going on he says something like “Says the large unfiltered chorus” and you go “lolwut?”.

His strong is emotional vocal harmonies, that’s kind of why you would listen to this. Seems to be him singing with himself by means of the wonders of technology. There can only be so many tricks of emotional harmonizing vocals, so the reason why some of these vocal works don’t sound cliche is because the recording is so crude. Just like most of Brian Jonestown Massacre sounded dated, but not really because it had so much raw power that it ended up sounding retro instead.

So if you really dig folk and home recorded crazy confessional stuff, go on and listen to the whole thing. If you are here just for a quick fix, I’ll tell you what, these are the best tracks: “Call me transcendental” might be the one that sounds more like 90’s rock, followed by “You crack me up” and “Walking really weird”. Oh fuck I have just realized what this guy was remembering me of! Quasi’s album Field Studies, which is one of my favorites ever. Pitchfork gave it 6.3, those fucking maggots, that album is perfect.

Aforementioned “I am morals” is good also, but “A dead animal in my arms” is better, the lyrics go “no need to taste the engine”, “vomit in the sun”, it’s just so likable! Leaving all objectivity aside – like it wasn’t there already – I think my favorite is “All my best friends”, because it sort of freaks out: “Oh look, serendipity crucified the throw out elbow, and it’s still a shock” and then something about robots winning something. Great stuff.







At the time of writing, there are 4 songs on this guy’s soundcloud. I want more, and that’s why I’m writing this. Even though it’s nothing that special (the musical aspect of it) this is worth 5 minutes of your time because of the cool, unpretentious but kind of well crafted, cute lyrics.

I’m disabling the soundcloud applet on this one and instead posting the four links because otherwise people wouldn’t read the lyrics. They are ordered below from best to hateful to absolutely pothead and they are all worth a listen. If you have time and disposition for only one, “Love Song” is not a love song and makes reference to nazi zombies, Zelda, Mario, Star Wars and Harry Potter. Just saying.

This guy is not a genius or anything, but he has a nice voice and plays guitar and piano competently.

>implying that’s not enough


This is a bit exotic and different. The vocals are spoken and the lyrics are insane, sometimes about philosophy or just analyzing relationships, emotions etc. in a bit of a crazy manner. In general, everything here is a bit fixed-idea crazy. The music itself goes on and on but doesn’t get boring because it’s so strange and fitting to the vocals that you get hooked.

Dude sounds like a lady. The singer is not the blonde on the cover, that’s his ex-girlfriend. Sounding like a girl is probably bad for him, but isn’t really bad for the music. Knowing it’s a dude adds to the Woody Allen-esque feel that you are listening to a strange guy going on and on about stuff he’s probably the only one who cares about (see “On Subjectivity”).

Most spoken vocal music has a bit of theatrics to it, but there’s a different drama on this one, like the singer is annoyed by something and still has to keep on singing because it is his last chance to. Than out of the blue, again, on “On Subjectivity”, he starts to scream at you about something you never did and you don’t fully understand. Others feel like he is telling you something intimate that you should keep a secret, like “Security Windows”. Since he isn’t talking to anyone other than you, you feel in on the drama and compelled to tell him something, maybe “calm down man, have a cigar”.

Now back to the music. I’ve read him say he didn’t really know how to play the bunch of instrument he used, but kind of managed to join the sounds together to turn into actual music. This is not ipsis litteris, I don’t really remember exactly what he did say. So, considering that, it’s kind of impressive and makes sense once you listen to the music. Dis-considering that, just for the hell of it, it sounds like a surrealist experiment. Some of the songs end up sounding a little bit the same, but there are plenty of build-ups, dramatic stops and little bits of decoration to make the music always pretty and interesting.

He is apparently recording a new album with professional musicians. I’ll surely be interested in listening to that, this is some of the most distinctive music I have found in this here web. Good luck with whatever kind of success this kind of music can achieve man!