Jules Shear | Slower
For a modest, relatively quiet album, Jules Shear's Slower, his first solo album since 2017's One More Crooked Dance, sure packs a big emotional punch. You don't even have to hear every word he sings to feel the profound depths of despair and anguish or the blissful heights of ecstasy and love embedded in these 10 new songs. Shear straddles the line between pre-rock pop and pop-soul balladry on most of these unplugged arrangements, borne along by the gorgeous piano stylings of his go-to keyboardist, Pepe. Drums and percussion are used sparingly; Sara Lee provides melodic bass lines, John Sebastian drops touches of mouth harp, autoharp, and guitar; and Perry Beekman handles the lion's share of duties on six-string.
But the greatest instrument on this recording is Shear's voice. I'm led by some to believe it is an acquired taste, but to me it is a marvel of nature. His vocals are rich with multitones and overtones, he's got a huge range, which he handles tastefully; his tone bespeaks torchlike resignation with a hint of irony. And then there are his lyrics. Shear is a master at turning a phrase: "Somewhere between here and hell you've found a place to play." "You're supposed to be angry and sad, is that why people love your songs?" "It feels like fall, it feels like fall, and it's spring." Coproduced by Shear and Lee Danziger at home in Woodstock.