Peacefully is available via:
15th September, 2017
THE next couple of days will be spent…
reviewing some interesting artists and talking about an array of subjects. That might sound vague but, among it all, there are things to get excited about. Michael Jablonka is under my radar and someone I am keen to assess. I interviewed him last year – when he was promoting his previous single – and was fascinated by his story and talent. I will talk about his new song, Peacefully, very soon but, right now, a few relevant points. This week, when reviewing Baxter Dury’s album, Prince of Tears, I was blown away by his incredible lyrics and voice. There are some innovators in music but there are (relatively) few that stay in the imagination that long, With Dury, when listening to the songs on the album, it was amazing seeing all the scenes and images painted – an amazing musician who makes you smile, think and emote without much effort. Before I move on, I want to talk about, among other things, guitar wizardry and backing big stars on the road. Jablonka is an exceptional guitarist who has been compared with the likes of Jimi Hendrix. Most of my reviews revolve around solo artists and bands that are not renowned for their guitar skills. In the case of Jablonka; his guitar work has been compared to the greats for good reason. What impresses me is the fact he is able to provoke comparisons to the big names but retain his own style. I have been pining for a great guitarist; someone I can get my teeth into and stick with. Most of the solo artists I encounter have the guitar as part of their music – it is not a big dynamic and mantra. For Jablonka, it is an integral part of his sound and one of the main reasons he is so adored. One imagines he would have trained and studied for years to sound that good. I have tried learning the guitar myself but have struggled to stick with it. Many are taught to sound like others: it can be hard crafting a unique technique and personality when being guided by rigid instructors.
I am interested in the instrument but am not sure I will ever find the patience and talent to master it. That is a shame because I feel, if one can get a command of the guitar, it can open up a whole new world. One has the opportunity to join a band or start a solo career with horizons and chances. Jablonka is able to perform in a soothing manner but has incredible electricity and fire in his blood. I am always stunned witnessing great guitarists express themselves through their instrument. It becomes an extension of who they are and a part of their soul. That might sound a little pretentious but guitarists do not take up the instrument and have a casual relationship with it – that is true of any musician, I guess. Jablonka has been playing for a long time but has really stepped up his game the past few years. So few solo artists are synonymous with the guitar. Emphasis is put on the voice and lyrics: how many of us remember someone because of their guitar skills?! It is becoming so rare and, because of that, a man like Michael Jablonka is deserving of a bigger audience. Apart from, maybe Jack White, there are few that get into the brain because of their guitar chops – a slight exaggeration, perhaps, but he is someone that stands above the herd. I will move on but would urge anyone with even a passing interest in the guitar to check out Michael Jablonka. He is someone who will have a long career – it is wonderful watching the young man blossom and bringing so much from the guitar. Maybe I obsess too much over a single element but it is an integral aspect of who he is. The fact Jablonka’s music is so nuanced, trained and stunning is, to a degree, the fact he has supported a fellow Michael on the road…
Jablonka has shared the stage with Mercury Prize-nominated songwriter, Michael Kiwanuka. I am a massive fan of Kiwanuka and count his album, Love & Hate, among my favourite of the past few years. It is an amazing record and, whilst not as defined by guitar as Jablonka’s work, it is a rapturous and stunning work from a special human. On it; Kiwanuka addresses faith and his place in the world; racial imbalance and the state of the modern world – the struggles we all face and the ways we can overcome. It is not a shock that record gained a prestigious nod. Taking his music on the road and one would have witnessed a stunning artist who has come on a long way. Kiwanuka’s leap from his first album, Home Again, to Love & Hate was immense. The former was a personal and traditional Soul record that showcased an amazing voice but, in terms of lyrics and compositions, was a little honed and limited. Love & Hate expanded and broke new ground. The themes widened to the outside world and deeply political realms; the music more adventurous and multi-genre – the vocals employed new shades and power. Jablonka would have learnt a lot from Kiwanuka but, the fact he was given that honour, shows what a talent he is. Michael Jablonka has gone a long way in a short time but that time on the road would have given him a good insight into the music industry. Not only has he had a first-hand look at the day-to-night cycle of touring: the demands of the road and buzz of the crowd will be in his ears and eyes. That has fuelled his desires and made him strive and work harder. One of the reasons that experience has been notable is how he has assimilated new strands into his music. Mantra is Jablonka’s previous single and one that showed a lot of wisdom, energy and vivaciousness. Now, on Peacefully, he seems to have incorporated new inspiration into the work.
What interests me about the Jablonka-Kiwanuka connection is how much the former has been impacted by the latter. It seems like a natural bond so I wonder, down the line, whether the two will conspire in the coming months. I hear bits of Kiwanuka’s voice and songwriting on Peacefully. It is a song that has commercial appeal but is a lot more striking and bold than your average fare. In fact; few artists have created a song as particular and immediate as Jablonka. I feel the time on the road – and the time has hanged with Kiwanuka – has made a big difference in terms of confidence and enlightenment. The music, now, appears more confident and natural; the lyrics and vocals jump off the page and into the heart; the overall effect is incredible. It seems Jablonka dedicates every waking hour to his craft and music. That sort of commitment is impressive to see. I know a lot of musicians put in that much graft but, to the London-based musician, it seems more like a calling. There are so many out there who want to chase fame and commercial benefit. For Jablonka; I sense a man who wants to bring something revolutionary and new to the music world. He is not content performing staple and samey songs to people who will not take anything away from it. The fact he was selected as the go-to stringsman of Michael Kiwanuka speaks volumes – a man at the top of his game would not recruit a young guitarist if he was not up to the job! That faith has been repaid with incredible live performances and loyalty. The two Michaels would have learned a lot from each other but it is the chance Jablonka was given that will motivate him to make more music and keep aiming high.
Talk about commitment and passion and there are few who compared with Michael Jablonka. This is something I wanted to look at in more detail. I have alluded to the fact there are some who go into music for the wrong reasons. For Jablonka; few can doubt his willingness to give his all to music. Whether you see it as a calling or something he was meant to do – he spends all his waking time thinking about music. That comes through in his sounds. One knows how much effort he puts in; always pushing his skills to the limit. If one concentrates their existence to a field then it is going to have negative and positive effects. Jablonka is someone who obsesses over his music and will want to push it to the very ends. He wants success and to get as far in the industry as he possiblly can. That sort of passion cannot be faulted but I wonder whether he is exhausting himself and pushing himself too much. That might seem like a paternal attitude but, as I shall explain in a piece tomorrow, are modern musicians risking burnout by writing and performing too much?! Maybe the industry is putting too much pressure on the shoulders of the new musician and wanting them to give too much, too – that, in turn, is leading to physical and emotional cracks. Jablonka is attacking music on his own terms but knows what it takes to be remembered and make a dent. He will spend his free time battling and forging new material; touring as much as he can and thinking about new avenues. Maybe there is a risk he will stress himself but I feel there are more positives in the case of Jablonka. He is not a man who seems likely to explode or feel the rapture of commercialism. For him, music is more about doing things in his own way and putting out the sounds that feel right and pure. That is one of the reasons there has been quite a gap between his debut and follow-up single.
What stuns the listener is the fact it all sounds so effortless and easy. There are no thrills and the desire to bring too many other bodies to the party. It is Jablonka and a few others in the song; a track that is defined by his guitar and spectacular talent. I know there are others who have a singular songcraft but few that make such a noise as Michael Jablonka. I guess that time with Kiwanuka would have helped but one looks at the embers of Hendrix and knows that has made a bigger impression. The all-time-great guitarist is someone who you do not hear a lot of in modern music. If there is a big guitar player then one picks out other influences – maybe your Jack White types and Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page. Maybe it is daunting measuring up to a guitarist who many consider to be the finest there has ever been. Jablonka is not quite up to the mark of Hendrix, yet, but one feels he has the potential to get there. Everything he has taken on-board – the touring and experience; the passion he has for what he does – have all helped mould a wondrous musician. I will move onto the song in question but, before then, a couple more points. There are few that expend as much energy into their music so it is understandable Jablonka would pace things and not rush too heavily. Mantra was a song that gained a lot of esteem and headway but hinted at new promise and bigger things. Peacefully is a move forward and an evolution from Jablonka. His latest song explodes with crunching riffs, fireworks and scintillating drama. I have mentioned the likes of Jack White but one gets hints of Matt Bellamy and Jimi Hendrix. That improvement is something I wanted to look into and examine in forensic detail.
Perhaps it is the reception Mantra gained that has pushed him on and made him a finer and more nuanced musician. Mantra is brilliant but Peacefully is a song that hits harder and lasts longer. Jablonka will support The Strypes – or is at the moment – and is learning new things from another act. He is still in touch with Michael Kiwanuka but, with The Strypes, he is gigging with a band that differs greatly. That will give Jablonka a chance to get his new music to different crowds – that will get new fans in and give him new drive and purpose. I feel gigs are the reason Jablonka is stepping up and making his music as explosive as possible. If the ghost of Jimi Hendrix can be heard in his guitar-work; I still hear bits of Kiwanuka in the voice and lyrics. I will leave things there but I am stunned by the step Jablonka has made between his previous single and the one now. The London-born artist has gigged with The Strypes but he will play Map Café (NW5) on 25th November. He is keeping busy and ensuring his music reaches as many of the capital’s faces as is possible. All of this will propel and infuse the spirit and body of Michael Jablonka. I am pumped to discover where the youngster can go and what is next for him. I feel London plays a pivotal role in who he is and what he plays. Jablonka is keen to stand aside from supporting and other musicians and establish his own music career. He is in the right city to achieve all he sets out to do. In terms of venues; he has the finest and biggest right on his doorstep. This time of year, many will want to evade the cold and darker nights and go see live music.
Jablonka will have a platform on which to strike and campaign. I am determined to see his music go as far as it possibly can. By doing gigs around London, he will gain local pride and press and be able to move on from there. It is easy getting caught in the London rut but is that such a bad thing?! Jablonka was born here and, so, has a natural affinity for its people. I feel there is a bigger world out there that deserves his music. Jablonka will want to get some attention in the city but, when he has broken ground and made his voice heard, there is an opportunity to take the music further. The U.K. has so many great areas for the new artist to explore. Whether he has the fanbase and finance to get up and down the nation, I am not so sure. Regardless of that; everyone will want to fall for the extraordinary guitar chops of Jablonka. There are so few like him and, because of that, the waves will spread and the good vibes come his way. I will look at Peacefully soon but it seems, in regards this track, it speaks about detaching and finding some space. Everyone gets caught in the stress and rush of life – even Jablonka – and that need to get away and find solace emanates from the song. The track investigates the hustle of everyday life and the storm we can all get mixed up in. Whether there was a romantic bent to the background – or a modern influence – it is hard to say. It is a song that will resonate with many and can be taken to heart. We have all be in the same situation as the hero and can relate to what he is going through. Even if his guitar work is intangible to mere mortals: Jablonka balances that with down-to-earth lyrics and familiar paens.
The opening riff is a juggernaut that breaks through the walls and throws grenades into the landscape. It is an industrial rampage that destroys all in its wake and breaks all the surroundings. It is an acidic and delirious swirl that makes you stand up and gets involved. The hero comes to the microphone and talks about light and seeing the sight – perhaps, it is about love and trying to detach from a bad bond. Perhaps there is a sense of being caught in a mass of confusion and needing time to get away from the rush and demands of everyday life. Jablonka’s voice is echoed and heightened; it is bold and volumised so that the words stand firm and shout their meaning. Right from the off, one is primed for something epic and intent. The door is being opened and it seems like our man needs release and meaning. Some of the words get lost in the throng of the guitar but it is easy to detect the desire that trips from the tongue. The chorus brings in other vocal strands – and is lighter and more harmonic – and seems to bring a Pop edge into the Rock core. Strings trip and weave; they stutter and throw themselves around. Jablonka is not someone who writes generic riffs and ordinary parables. His notes have so much expression and personality to them. What I found, as the song expanded, was the different layers and colours Jablonka employs. He is a man who has crafted this tune and spent hours ensuring the music distinguishes itself from all others. It is a magnificent composition that has so many wings, bodies and minds – a diverse and compelling song that hits all parts of the body. There are salty tears and a weight that burdens his pockets. Maybe Jablonka is talking of a compatriot who has that desire to find some safer space and calm.
I feel there is more of the personal that runs through Peacefully. It is a track that seems to come straight from the heart – winning you with its openness and bravery. One of the biggest draws is the vocal, which has a real sense of the unique. One cannot compare it to others and gets a lot of emotions and contours from the delivery. It is a shame some of the words do get lost – the production, heavy composition and pronunciation mean it is a fragmented lyrical experience. One gleams as much as they can from context – so it is not too detrimental some words get buried in the background. What you do sense is that the hero has witnessesed a lot of chaos and has to take a lot on board. Maybe it is love that has weighed him but I feel it is the daily routine that is getting a bit too heavy. He is making a decision to deal with the problem and not let things burden him. The percussion rumble and tumbles – it is warped, drugged and bold at the same time – whilst the bass cuts through and offers guidance and cohesiveness. Jablonka is in the centre of the picture and looking for direction. It is easy to empathise with the hero as he seems to be in the same position as many of us. That need to open the door and take a step seems to define the song. The chorus is that naturally effusive and rousing thing that tries to get the listener to look at their own life – if there are strains and problems; take action and make some time for yourself. It is so easy getting caught up in the song and the energy it projects. The spiked and angular slams sit with masculine percussion and a dizzying array of sounds. Peacefully is an ironic title for a song that never relents its grip.
What staggers me about Jablonka is the way he manages to sound relatable but gives us a song that seems to connect. We can connect with the words being spoken and the emotions that bubble inside him. There are shades of Muse and Jack White alongside the Hendrix nods; a bit of Queens of the Stone Age and some Royal Blood. It is quite simple comparing a musician to others without thinking too hard and putting much thought into it. Rather than lump Jablonka with others; one listens to the way he plays and the whole of his artistry – there, you will discover a musician who covers his own ground and is his own man. Peacefully is a different song to Mantra and shows there is no sense of the predictable with the London musician. I wonder where he will go from here and what the future holds. If new music is anything like his current jam; there will be many new listeners coming through with eagerness. I am a fan of Michael Jablonka and know he will go very far in the music world. He is a writer that has such a way with words – even though some do pass you by – and marries that with some of the best guitar playing you will hear. Long may his pioneering, electioneering music continue. Here is someone with a clear future and the determination to see it through. Few musicians have the same work ethic as Jablonka. Against lyrics that speak of poor mental-health and being overwhelmed; he is offering solace and positive reaction. This is a crucial thing to put into modern music – many will find heart and support listening to a song like Peacefully.
I have mentioned a gig Michael Jablonka has later in the year but it seems 2018 is going to be a big one. I wonder whether an E.P. will be out in the year and what form that will take. There are so few Rock gods circulating at the moment: there is a definite need to embrace a new hero/heroine that can get the blood racing. I am hearing some great female bands where there are some gravelled guitars and explosive songs. In terms of the male solo artists; not too many who put you in mind of the stalwarts and icons of past days. Perhaps there will be big gigs next year but I feel Jablonka will want to do some more local dates and get his new music to fresh realms. Peacefully is a sign of where he is heading and what he has it his disposal. I would love to see more music come from him – whether there is an E.P. or album. I have a connection with him and the effort he puts into his music. There are few that have the love of music he does - that all comes through in his latest track. It is a fiery and immense song that grabs you with its physicality and sexuality; the lyrics have a common head and can be taken in by everyone. Many musicians write songs that seem too personal and relate to a very particular love story. Jablonka is someone who wants to speak to the larger populous with his words. Let’s hope he continues and records as much as he can. How many of you can say they have discovered someone like Michael Jablonka and what he does?! I have not heard anyone like him and, for that reason, feel he deserves a large audience. His fans are growing and the word is getting out there.
Every great musician has a place in the industry but now, more than ever, there is a need for someone like Jablonka. I find all the guitar-based music out there is quite predictable. There are certain bands that create music primed for arenas and show little imagination and technique. So long as they have meaty hooks and big choruses then it does not matter what else they do. This can get very boring and I am reluctant proffering this type of Rock. Jablonka is a different beast: someone who puts real attention and detail into his music. There is ample push and heave but intelligence and compassion come through. Peacefully is a fantastic and mesmeric track from a man who has the legs to last for many more years. He is never beholden to the charts and producing music that will get people jumping onto Spotify. It is for the true music-lovers who want their artists original and fresh. Few have the same guitar talent as him; the words that stay in the mind and make you think – a performance that stands out and makes you feel like you have discovered a star-in-the-making. Peacefully is a stunning offering from the Londoner that stuns the senses and gets the body moving. I have not heard someone as intense and stirring as Michael Jablonka. This year has been a big one for him but 2018 is going to see him transcend from the underground to the mainstream. It may take a few months but I feel, when he releases new music, he will find himself on the interview circuit. His music is not a secret but it is getting to more people by the month. The guitar genius is someone who gives something wonderful to music. His songs are those that can be appreciated by audiences in a huge arena or a smaller café. He is an artist who has come a long way and has seen his dedication and passion rewarded. Respect to Jablonka and everything he is doing. If you are foreign to Peacefully – and all that has come before – then do yourself a favour and…
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