Monday, February 08, 2010

Review: Jon and Roy "Another Noon," "Sittin' Back"

"Another Noon" (2008) B-
"Sittin' Back" (2005) C -

You have to respect an artist unafraid to make a principled stand. It's hard not to side with Michael Stipe and Trent Reznor, who last year spoke out against the use of their songs during bouts of torture at Guantánamo Bay. Sirs Paul McCartney and Elton John have similarly lambasted British government proposals to disconnect music thieves from the Internet, and more power to them. So, let me be the first to officially rally behind Canadian duo Jon and Roy, whose neo-reggae-folk tracks, from "First Thing in the Mornin'" to "Drinkin' and Thinkin'," seem to lobby for the elimination of the letter G from the English language.
Hailin' from British Columbia and debutin' in 2005 with the album "Sittin' Back," Jon and Roy and their Sarah-Palinization of all gerunds betray a desire to be mellower than mellow, chiller than chill. All the same, Jon and Roy don't have a terribly coherent understandin' of who they want to be.

Self-described as “acoustic folk/reggae and hip hop with an island tinge,” the Canucks draw inspiration from sources as varied as Nick Drake and Sublime. Their own style, fueled only by an acoustic guitar and sparse percussion (primarily bongo), is intentionally unadorned. The twosome frequently becomes a vehicle for the white-boy-guitar-rap of vocalist Jon Middleton, as with “The Right Groove.” It is hard to say what makes these efforts so much less interestin’ than those, say, of G. Love and Special Sauce – perhaps the lack of a real drum kit, the infinitely thinner sound? – but they nonetheless fall flat.

Jon and Roy are at their best when they stick more to their hush-hush folk roots. “From the Ground Up” makes the most of Jon’s gravelly but capable voice though sticks lyrically to genre tropes (makin’ love, smokin’ pot), and “January Sun” brings in some much-needed extra strings.

Released in 2008, the duo’s second full-length album “Another Noon” fortunately veers toward Nick Drake and José Gonzalez and away from bad imitations of Jamaicans past. From the first (title) track, it is clear that Jon is makin’ a concerted effort to sing and not to grumble or, worse, rap. The country influences that Jon and Roy picked up somewhere in the three years between albums are actually welcome, as are the snare drum and cymbal that the two apparently bought with the profits from their first release. All are displayed prominently on “Long Road.” And whoever forced the pair to listen to Pink Moon before this venture was well rewarded with “By the Sea.”

Jon and Roy seem to have learned the ironic lesson that tryin’ that much harder – layin’ down a second guitar on the track, complementin’ your bongo with a bass drum, havin’ someone sing harmonies, improvin’ production value in general – can make your folk album infinitely more relaxin’ and sound genuinely effortless. To end on a dour note, though, I have to admit I’ll probably never again actively listen to either of Jon and Roy’s albums. It is quintessentially background music, coffeeshop music, and though “Another Noon” was a marked improvement for the Canadians, it still fails to be quiet-but-interesting (see: Simon and Garfunkel, Kings of Convenience). Study to it, relax to it, fall asleep to it…but don’t look for anything excitin’ here.

-- Dan Bliss
Host, "Their Early Stuff is Better," Thursday 6-7 PM and Friday 12-1 PM at


Dan said...

The show is actually THURSDAY 6-7 PM and FRIDAY 12-1 PM.

And on it, I use the letter G. Just saying.

Caroline said...


Anonymous said...

I guess your not aware of textures of music that intend to sound thin. You seem pretty closed minded towards different styles of music, enjoy trying to critique music with your bachelor of arts degree. This article is frankly boring and for an obvious reason not very popular.

Anonymous said...

so basically the fact that the music is not popular music or produced like popular music makes it bad?