From Montreal, John Jacob Magistery has just recently released a new 12 track album, titled Phantom i / Are You Too Sensitive? and it’s awesome. They’re an alternative folk band that has been gaining a lot of momentum since their first single, “Greatest Story Ever” came out. They’ve shared bills with names like The Barr Brothers, Blue Rodeo, Lia Ices, Daniel Lanois, and The Struts. We had the chance to listen to their latest album, and this is what we think.
The first track on the record is “Captain Of The Sea.” My first reaction to this track is that the vocals remind me slightly of a tame, slowed down mix between Mumford and Sons and Death Cab for Cutie, which is awesome. The track builds momentum, starting out low and gentle, and slowly building a stronger presence. At the end, everything drops low and the vocals are isolated, before the music explodes into one last instrumental spotlight. The track is intense and emotional and just stunning.
The next track is called “Carol”. This track is a completely different feeling than the last one. It picks up the tempo, has a somewhat careless feel to it. The feel of the vocals are even a complete 180. This track is fun and carefree and exciting as they sing that “there’s one uncrossable line,” and this unique groove will make you want to dance.
The next song picks up the pace even more. The song is called “Let The Joy Thru,” and it starts out with a catchy guitar line. This track has a frantic feel, as they tell you “you got to let the joy through.” Drums and guitar are the driving force behind this track and there’s a very interesting shimmering interlude in the middle of the song, which certainly makes it unique.
The 4th song on the record is “Trans.” This is a short piece, only a minute and 44 seconds long, and is completely instrumental. Different layers of tones come together, combined with some electronic ones – some bouncing and some almost whistling. It’s seamless, like one giant sustained sound, and before you know it, it fades off into nothing.
“Barking At The Dogs” is the next track. This piece slows things down again. This slow jam has about a full minute of just instrumentals before the vocals even start. The vocals in this piece seem almost muted, and a steady beat keeps things moving. The guitar jam comes in when they sing, “you brought this on yourself.” This track feels raw and exposed and electric.
The 6th track on Phantom i / Are You Too Sensitive? is “Mary”. This song is soft and gentle and asks “Mary will you go with me?” and “Mary will you marry me?” This track is emotional and beautiful and full of love. It feels like an old love song, as a man lays out his heart for a woman.
“Tension (Key #2)” is next up. This one has a doo-wop beat with light and feathery lyrics. The song starts off soft at first, and suddenly builds momentum at the chorus. This mid tempo track feels minimalist in a way, compared to the others. This song swells and recedes, like an emotion building up before exploding and settling again.
The 8th track on this album is “Voices From The Other Side”. This has a gentle and soft beginning, as they talk about the voices from the other side, and then the sound explodes into a powerful force. Every aspect of the song becomes powerful – from the instrumentals to the vocals. This is one of my favorites on the track. It’s authentic and just stunning.
“Kings” is next up. This one has relaxed instrumentals, with a an intensity behind the vocals that is unmistakable. The chorus has some awesome vocals to it, that’s different than the rest of the album. This is a unique track, that will have you singing “When all the kings die,” over and over again.
The next track on the album is shares one half of the album name: “PHANTOM i.” Once again, the band shows us another side of their music. The vocals are soft and almost whispery and timid at first, before crescendoing and becoming fully present. This track picks up the tempo and is a face paced groove that feels a tad bit panicky. This track is catchy and well deserving of half the album name.
The 11th track is “Bite The Bullet”. This is a sweet melody accompanied by the strum of the guitar. The innocent and simplistic tune contrasts the lyrics such as, “bite the bullet it’s alright, it’s supposed to feel like fire.” Drums join in, giving the piece a stronger structure. This is another one of my favorites on the album.
Last but certainly not least, is the tract that shares the other half of the album title, “Are You Too Sensitive?” It starts right off the bat, with the lyrics “try not to feel so much.” This track is constantly changing up the rhythms, keeping the listener on their toes. The guitar is the spotlight of this track, with an awesome guitar riff in the middle of the song. This track comes in waves of intensity, and is definitely a memorable piece. The end speeds up, faster and faster, into chaos, until it all unravels and suddenly ends.