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Album Review: Jake Morley ‘The Manual’

jake morley

Five years after the release of his debut ‘Many Fish To Fry’, London-born singer Jake Morley has dropped his second album ‘The Manual’. The album is a striking compilation of unique tracks, and as a whole, a complex mixture of elements portraying impressive artistic sensibility. It’s something different, and Morley makes different a very good thing.

With its semi-Egyptian melody, opening number The Floods is a step in the right direction, well clear of standard, boring, or run-of-the-mill. The song also sets a high lyrical bar with picturesque lines, “I’m an explorer of your face/I find it an endlessly beautiful place/Cartography learned by taste and touch/But I can’t interpret the weather, it’s tearing me up”. Morley complements an interesting rhythmic and melodic structure with a smooth, strong, and carefully-pitched vocal delivery, pulling off a challenging and complex piece with grace.

The aptly-named second track Strange Loop is even more unusual and fascinating than the first, sustained by an ever-changing melody and catchy lyrics. The melodic complexities make the perfect launching pad for Morley’s smooth vocals, showing off his uncanny ability to draw pitch out of thin air. He balances the unpredictable melody of the verses with an incredibly catchy, uncomplicated chorus, fading out with repeated samples until the song comes full-circle.

Strange Loop‘s melodic complexities make the perfect launching pad for Morley’s smooth vocals, showing off his uncanny ability to draw pitch out of thin air.

With its emotive lyrics, uncomplicated instrumentation, and quirky chords, Ghostess is the shot of angst-ridden mourning every album needs. Morley’s lyrics are not so much heard as felt when he sings, “Your makeup in my bathroom/Your socks I wear when I have none/Still sleeping on your mattress/I feel it, you are my ghostess”. If those words can’t convey the devastation of a broken heart, nothing can. The tender guitar chords and melancholy violin set the scene for Morley’s smooth harmonies, each vocal layer like another splash of colour filling in the written lines.

If you need a brief respite from the land of artistic heartbreak, Lionchild is your go-to. With a rousing rhythm and fun, playful instrumentation, this song is more than enough to put sadness back in its cage. Each up-beat verse ends with the same mellow refrain, “There’s something you’ve gotta know/Sometimes I need to be alone”. Like a loveable cousin to Strange Loop, Lionchild achieves a sense of melodic complexity, but without ever feeling unnatural. It’s worth sticking around until the end for Morley’s final vocal note, showing off impressive restraint and purity.

With a rousing rhythm and fun, playful instrumentation, Lionchild is more than enough to put sadness back in its cage.

Beginning with a single eerie note and immediately following up with a dark, sauntering rhythm, Weight On My Eyes is anything but forgettable. In Morley’s typically unpredictable style, the song is full of contrasts, moving in an instant from a heavy, brooding verse into a refreshingly light chorus. Laid over a thick harmonic base, the main melody shows off the reach of Morley’s vocals, ranging from intense low notes through to airy falsetto. Weight On My Eyes is ultimately a versatile foray into something unexpected, switching between a threatening country vibe and the harmonic final scene of a dramatic romantic movie.

By yet another contrast, Allegorical House is a sweet, light-hearted romp opening with harmonic vocals, soft bongos, and sparse guitar, generating just enough energy to keep pace with Morley’s meticulous, rhythmic stream of vocals. At first, it seems like a simple story about a house, flowing like a stream of thoughts, but Morley’s cleverly crafted lyrics double as a metaphorical message about life, growing up, and self-discovery: “One long forever later I was hit/By a tidal wave of regret/Why did I defile a special place/That could’ve been my home?” Anthemic growth before the final reprises culminates in an impressive held note, a timely break from the gentleness of the song, and one of the album’s most memorable vocal highlights.

Jake Morley’s ‘The Manual’ is made for anyone who has experienced love, heartbreak, self-discovery, or just about any other emotion. Listen well enough and his lyrics might just be potent enough to make you feel everything over again.

Album Rating: 4

Written by Jess Martyn