Jon McKiel – S/T

Review by Andrew Patterson

There’s a new crystalline shimmer in the eye of Jon McKiel. Since the one-two punch of 2011’s chin check EP, Confidence Lodge, and total knockout LP, Tonka Warcloud, the world hardly heard a peep from this scraggy maritime rock laureate. After a long hibernation, McKiel has finally stepped back out into the sun, squinting across the lawn; and there’s nary a cobweb trailing him on this self-titled offering.

The six songs herein don’t involve any trading up or trading in, everything that made McKiel’s earlier work so magnetic remains: aching fretboard pressure, unwavering drum work, grand statements made in little turns of phrase, moments that loom larger than the speakers, a deft ability to capitalize and captivate. What’s new on this collection is a welcomed sense of ease that suffuses the songs. The recording feels loose, the playing inspired and the vocals lively and, even, occasionally sweet.

And while his more brooding work has often proved totally infectious, bubbly tracks like ‘Twin Speaks’ and ‘Accolades’ inspire a new level of compulsive listening. It’s really refreshing to hear an artist like McKiel, who’s made a name for himself making potent, heavy-hearted rock songs, loosening up a little: it turns out he sounds just as smart chuckling as he does churning.