The indie culture in American music has been holding up through 2020 a lot better than the mainstream end of the spectrum has been, and to appreciate what I mean, you don’t need to look much further than the new record Affirmation Day from Jake Allen, currently out and available everywhere quality beats are sold and streamed. Comprised of twelve songs that tend to run a little longer than the average radio-cut pop single would, Affirmation Day feels like an hour-long dissection of an artist’s soul as envisioned from a third person perspective – for this LP’s greatest gift is its ability to give us a fly-on-the-wall perspective on the mentality and musical catharsis that this incredibly talented singer/songwriter so desperately wants to find.
There’s a lot of elegance to the arrangements of “Living Ghost,” the title track, “Two Faced” and the stealthy “Clear,” and at no time does it ever feel like we’re hearing anything that wasn’t deliberately mechanized to be present in the master mix. From the subtle clicking of the percussion as it creates a mad volley against the strings in “Clear” to the brittle harmonies in the frontend of “On the Run,” allusions to 90’s alternative pop ala “Things We’ll Never Find” and a slight nod to the melodic musings of Oasis in “Rising Tide,” there’s literally a treasure chest of intricacies to uncover in an afternoon with Affirmation Day, which is something I’ve missed in the majority of mainstream albums to hit record store shelves this past summer.
“Prague 6,” “I’ll See You On the Other Side,” “Indigo Son” and “More Than Meets the Eye” have a cerebral feel to each of their narratives that makes almost every verse feel personal but relatable at the same time, and my gut tells me Allen took some extra time to ensure this would be the case here. Duality is everything in Affirmation Day – it’s what creates both tension and release in this material, and though some critics might think it a bit pretentious to go to such lengths to push his skills to the limit without really needing to do so in this offering, I think that it’s what will ultimately set this Jake Allen LP apart from any other he ever records.
Though this isn’t the only alternative album that has had my attention in the last month or two, I do think that Affirmation Day has just the provocative tracklist to hit the spot for a lot of college radio-minded listeners feeling a midseason drag this November. Allen’s songwriting style is a hybrid of sorts, blinding us with obvious folk-rock influences while striking out with a reticently emotional tone that really speaks volumes about his craftsmanship as a lyricist, and even if it’s a little harder for some to categorize, I don’t see why it doesn’t line up with the bigger movement towards surrealism in the American pop scene. This is as abstract a sound as I want from his brand, and honestly, I believe it could be enough to bring him some of the international spotlight his contemporaries are ready to kill each other over.