Although in this 2019 I heard at least two hundred albums for the first time, I did not hear many that have come out this year. I’m sure not even ten or fifteen. It was a very strange year. In Argentina almost nothing was published, not even records of people whose works had local versions since the last ten or twenty years (Neil Young, for example). Nowadays my friends and acquaintances who usually recommend music do nothing but talk about Netflix series and, to be honest, I no longer feel the urge to “keep up with the times” (Is this related to the Netflix thing?). Of course, if someone I trust recommends me, I’d just jump at it immediately.
The new album by Jeff Kelly, leader of the Green Pajamas, came to my hands – and ears – by chance, but when I saw it, I was instantly curious. I consider the Pajamas one of the great bands of the last twenty years, although they have been going around for a long time, for me things gets seriously interesting with Strung Behind the Sun, from ’97.
Beneath the Stars, Above the River was a very pleasant surprise. It has everything I like about the Green Pajamas but it is not the same as one of their albums. The composer’s seal is there, naturally, that’s for sure, the lysergic vibe and the dreamlike atmosphere are present, but here there is an unquestionable local color, in several songs. Apparently inspired by trips to Spain and Portugal and it shows, “Lord, Lord”, “All for the Gypsy”, a narcotic waltz that could have come out of All Clues Lead to Meagan’s Bed or the cheerful “Moon Over Granada”. Another great one is “The Lisbon Vampire” one of those themes in which Kelly’s songwriter trade makes one get fully into history and be petrified, paying attention exclusively to what’s unfolding in front of our senses. A true gem, “Alleys of Madrid”, for those who still have the patience to listen to the entire albums, responsible for closing the LP, here one can imagine the author walking through the streets of the Iberian capital, with a notebook, capturing impressions, being flooded by a place, by an essence, a spirit.
Nowadays, the new albums that have the press coverage are those of pretty kids aping Joy Division and those of the same old veterans, of whom nobody have the guts to say that they are finished, with that of “this is a true return to form, the best thing he has done since…” If you are someone who appreciates the noble craft of writing songs, put a tab on the new Jeff Kelly. Then you tell me what you’ve made of it.