I’ve Got Some Living To Do by Jelani Aryeh album review by Adam Williams for Northern Transmissions

No Matter

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Jelani Aryeh

I’ve Got Some Living To Do

On his debut LP ‘I’ve Got Some Living To Do’ Prodigal talent, Jelani Aryeh shines a spotlight on what it’s like to be a 20-something in 2021. In a time of great anxiety, tension and uncertainty the San Diego resident explores all these elements with a matter of fact honesty. “For a lot of kids my age, I see that we numb ourselves in order to carry on with our lives. I want to make people take a step back and reflect on those times where we turned the switch off” states Aryeh on the inspiration behind his primary offering.

What we have is a record of juxtaposition; thematically there’s plenty of soul-searching and social observation, which is offset by the record’s sonic playfulness. It’s an album that’s reassuringly familiar but beguilingly hard to pin down – is it electro-pop or indie-pop? One track already sounds like a remix, given how much of an out and out banger it is; that’ll be ‘Piece of Your Mind’, with ‘Marigold’ cut from the same, thumping cloth. Equally, there’s a rawness to ‘I’ve Got Some Living To Do’ with a handful of recordings almost sounding like they’ve been rustled up in a cramped bedroom.

“Overexposed and so confused” trills Aryeh on ‘Overexposed’ which perfectly encapsulates the record’s personality as it attempts to explore youthful identity through a world polluted by a myriad of memes, Tik-Toks and fake news. There’s a dreaminess to the song, which can be traced back to our protagonist’s claims about numbing oneself to get by. The LP’s self-titled moment, which closes off proceedings, carries on the dream-like state but this time in a more dejected manner as Aryeh murmurs “how many defeats can I afford/standing on my feet isn’t easy anymore” as delicate textures flit and dissolve around our singer’s tender vocals. The young artist clearly isn’t afraid to wade into tumultuous waters either; ‘From These Heights’ was written in the wake of George Floyd’s murder in May 2020 and it’s evident Aryeh is ruminating on his own linage, being a Filipino/African-American growing up in a fractured USA. The musician talks of dislocation “I’ve never felt so far from something in my life” and a volatility, as he states “violence is all you’ll find in here”, assumingly reflecting on the social unrest that took to the streets through the summer of last year. Again, for a subject matter that’s profoundly serious, sonically the song takes a left turn into something catchy and almost carefree.

It wouldn’t be an album about confused, youthful expression without delving into the tangled notion of love. ‘The Millennium Express’ with its dreamy textures, encases lyrics about being head over heels “one kiss and I’d dissolve into space/I’m all in a daze” slurs the artist. Wrapped around demo-like beats and a semi-distorted guitar twang, Aryeh asks the question “how can I be the boy you dream about?” on ‘Stella Brown’, while ruminating on the person he’s showing affection towards. Then there’s the moments where a relationship hits the skids. Like a freshly grazed knee “Love Dies At Dawn” zeroes in on Aryeh’s bruised vocals, a brittle guitar line and static-laced snare drum, with a rawness that’s palpable. This is exemplified by the opening lyric “I can’t forget the things I know/like every single stone you throw/because you had to go and fuck with my mind” sung like someone tearfully perched on the edge of their bed trying to gather up the pieces of their broken heart.

Suffice to say, Aryeh has captured the beauty and ugliness of youth, from the ‘anything goes’ soundscapes to the ‘is the world going to end soon?’ lyricism. ‘I’ve Got Some Living To Do’: I’d say this young talent is already well on his way.

Pre-order I’ve Got Some Living To Do by Jelani Aryeh HERE