It’s always surprising when an artist seemingly pops out of nowhere with their unique sound and vision fully realized. Usually in these cases a quick Google search will easily reveal that this person has been immersed in some of your favourite songs and you just never knew it. Take Jim-E Stack. The San Francisco born DJ, producer and songwriter grew up playing in garage rock bands before transitioning to making beats inspired by some of his favourite acts like Daft Punk and J Dilla.
After managing to sneak into local clubs and lobbying promoters to give him a shot on the decks, Stack bounced around to different cities such as New Orleans, New York and Los Angeles squeezing inspiration from each of the different environments he found himself in. Since his arrival back to the west coast, Stack began collaborating and contributing to songs by some world renowned talent like Diplo, Haim, Empress Of, Charli XCX and so many more. With his debut full length, EPHEMERA, set to drop this week and featuring some of his former collaborators, Stack is ready to show the world what all this work was leading up to. On the surface the album is a breezy affair but when you dig a little deeper into the collection of songs contained here, you start to see that underneath each of the tracks casual demeanour is some high quality craftsmanship that, on the whole, is a wonderful introduction to a journeyman producer that shouldn’t be remaining behind the scenes for much longer.
The record kicks off with “Note To Self” featuring Lorey Rodriguez of Empress Of. Over some rumbling synth pads and a lone consistent tambourine, Rodriguez imparts a singular message of hope. The refrain is repeated throughout, “Just Let It Knock You Down/Don’t Fight It/Let It Bring You Back Around” and there is a wondrous elegance in its simplicity. Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon shows up on “Jeanie” with some wayward synths over a bold, bouncy beat. Again the simplicity belies some wonderfully intricate songwriting as Vernon and his vocoder sing “I Don’t Want You To Feel Too Much”. There are quite a few excellent contributions from an array of artists throughout the record. R&B soul singer and producer Dijon takes the lead on “Sweet Summer Sweat” with his irresistibly smooth vocals. The song features a hooky as fuck chorus and an electric piano break, possibly inspired by the Happy Mondays, which should leave you wanting to hit that repeat button. Kayne collaborator Ant Clemons appears on “Good Enough” with its sharp bass blasts and laid back beat. By the time we get to the album’s conclusion “Can We”with its distinctly Lauren Hill flavoured production and huge drum breaks, as well as a stunning starring turn from singer Kacy Hill, Jim E Stack has taken us on a lovely little journey that is as impressive as it is enjoyable.
EPHEMERA is on the surface a collection of tracks to simply set a mood. Smooth is one of the best descriptors but it takes a deft hand to be able to make things feel as easy breezy as this and a deft hand at production and songwriting is something that Jim E Stack has in spades. The album should act as a great launching pad to endear listeners to Stack’s distinctive style and hopefully a call for us all to pay a little more attention to the talent that is making the magic happen behind the scenes on some of our favourite songs.