CD Review: John Nagle / John Nagle
John Nagle Rating:
Reviewed by: Sally Feller
Los Angeles-based songwriter, John Nagle is a guy you want to keep on your music radar. Nagle plays jazzy acoustic guitar-styled pop, in the vein of Jason Mraz. One of the great things about John Nagle is how he writes simple, but authentic lyrics that he clearly lives and experiences—an art that on my cynical days seems lost in many current offerings on the radio.
John Nagle moved to LA in 2005 in order to start a band and, presumably, make it big. After the band he was playing with broke up, Nagle realized he couldn’t get by with just guitar and songwriting skills, he needed to be able to hold his own on vocals as well. After some training, Nagle’s voice smooths over the lyrics effortlessly, or so it seems to the listener, even if it did take a lot of voice training to get to that point.
On Nagle’s self-titled EP, you’ll hear sway-worthy acoustic smooth jazz songs like “Deeper,” featuring some lovely trumpets and Jamie Cullum-style vocals. However, on the same six-song EP, you’ll get the Mraz-like pop number called “The Fire,” which pulls in some down-home blues rhythms, a mix I can’t believe anyone with ears wouldn’t appreciate.
“China Town” offers a slightly darker mood with heavy drums and some introspective synths that sex things up a bit…you know, that sexy dim sum and dead duck allure of Chinatown, right? You know. Nagle’s smooth jazzy voice really meshes well with the moody sound of “China Town” and makes the song flow smoothly into the other songs on the EP.
Next up is “Mortal Love,” which is a song somewhat similar to “China Town,” but with the vocal structure most of us love from Jason Mraz, a sort of playful take on the darker song before it. This adds dimension to the song, but it still doesn’t feel as strong as the others on the album—the repetition seems to lack the power over the audience that the other songs excel at. A strong, foreboding drum-based bridge does a lot to make up for this lack of magnetism, but after it fades, we’re back to the repetition.
Nagle picks things back up with “On My Way,” which utilizes some more folksy acoustic rhythms to liven up the sincere lyrics. I suppose the words speak to most coming-of-age songs out there, but it’s impossible not to like. I’m also of the opinion that the song speaks to Nagle’s bright future in the music industry. A slow, trippy bridge breaks up the song, but manages to add depth and maturity to a rather light-hearted track. The catchy rhythms will drag you in whether you like it or not, I have no doubt.
I can honestly say that I have no idea what my favorite track on Nagle’s EP is because they’re all so different and I could find one to fit any of the moods I’m in and be completely satisfied. This promising EP has me excited to hear about John Nagle’s future and I’ll be keeping a close eye on his entry into the music scene. You can check some of these songs out for yourself at http://www.myspace.com/welovejohnnagle. Nagle’s first full-length album entitled Distractions will be available in December 2010. If you’re lucky enough, you just might be able to catch him performing in the LA area. If you do get a chance to see him, hit up the combox and tell us about it!