Album Review: Stolen Jars, “Kept”

Stolen Jars Kept
(Self – August 28, 2015)
(Indie Pop, Math)
Review by Kalyn Oyer


Stolen Jars coalesces a complex accumulation of sounds, step-by-step, driven by stacked layers of some of the best repetitive guitar riffs I’ve heard. These rhythmic stratums serve as the core of Stolen Jars’ sound, allowing the exaggerated ability to inhale and exhale with the emotional ebbs and flows of each track. The sound can both explode and retract by cutting in and out of looped tracks. A carefully constructed repetition is the elemental lyrical and sonic glue, while the duo of Cody Fitzgerald and Molly Grund on vocals blends into a soothing tension. Angelic harmonies float across angsty boundaries and sink into an ultimate, relieved bliss.

“Waves” starts off the disc as potentially the best song in the project. Muted, tidal guitar strings circle rhythmically in an intoxicating pattern that draws you under and up to the surface in an inescapable, omnipotent surge. Sound builds in gradual layers, with light and fast guitar as the focal point. Drumstick taps add to the texture before highlighting Fitzgerald’s mellow vocals. The tension arrives with Grund’s high harmonies, adding different elements and several tracks of both sound and emotion. Another guitar track comes in with a constant strumming, drowning out all silence; the water is all encompassing. The strings in the middle cut back to offer a break from the overwhelming sound. The pianissimo arrives along with lyrics that echo the withdrawal of sound: “When you came, it all went away.” Slowly, more guitar tracks, drum tracks, and vocals build again until releasing into the original guitar riff, which has continued all along; the waves never stop.
“Kept” begins with claps, tinny drum sounds, and the signature speedy guitar that serves as a stepping-stone for at least four tracks of vocals that play at once. “Living takes time” echoes repeatedly as a reminder to soak up experiences and realize you are constantly learning and growing throughout. This line is followed by “No, I will not stray,” repeated simplistically as if a mantra that is bound to be broken. A crack in the heavy sediment of tracks arrives as a sigh of relief in the end, marked only by an afterglow of sound in a calming electronic hum. You’ve learned something integral to your development as a human being, masked in the simplicity of naive wonder, and you’ll keep that moment forever.
“Another November” brings the purity of a snowfall, a memory, an innocence. Grund’s childlike lyrics arrive via angelic vocals that harmonize with each other over a cyclical build-up of strings, keys, and drumbeats, offering several crescendos, decrescendos, and flare-ups of heavy tempo amongst the ease of quieter moments. Simplicity for Stolen Jars still means at least a handful of stacked tracks; complex moments can offer upwards of eight at once.
“Glow” lyrically sums up the project. “Patient days await” offers a smile-worthy irony, while “I am not full-grown yet” offers an embrace of innocence that seems to encapsulate the entire disc. The freedom of youth, learning from mistakes, and loving where you’re at and where you’ve been are all integral themes.

While “Waves” takes you underwater before bringing you up for air, “Wreath’s Rakes” leaves you above the surface from the beginning, highlighting Ground’s vocals and a whole stack of delicious guitar strums. There’s positive buoyancy to this track, the act of shedding negativity and moving on.“Still/He Held Us, Covered.” offers an instrumental interlude that gives you a chance to recover your feelings during sonic chords and melodies. Drumsticks against metal offer a wake-up call before the ending note arrives in a provocative discord and brings you back to reality before “Bright Red.”
“Folded Out” offers some almost folksy vibes in the introduction. A staccato noise emulating a skipping CD leads into a surround-sound blend of vocals before highlighting a woodwind echo as the base for another tier of sound to grow upon. “I will let go, I will let go. Let’s be young,” sings the ode of the album.
“For Dan” offers a deeper sadness. “Which one of me am I?” explores a dark profundity, while “I hate these towns” and “What’s there to find in this space?” brush into harsh realities and a hopeless desperation for the childlike adventures of youth. “Turn things back again” resonates this notion.
Final track “Wheel” ties in with opening song “Waves,” furthering the cyclical concept and playing on the highs and lows of life. There’s a decidedly harsher and wearier tone than the introductory track. That initial innocence and love have been lost. Hearts have been broken. Life is unfolding and becoming more complicated. According to Fitzgerald, it is “taking away all my favorite things.” However, there is a certain resilience that arises in hard circumstances. You can’t give up just when life gets tough and go back to insipid comfort. “I will not go home” chants sullenly but doggedly. There is so much more left to explore, and that longed-after childlike joy awaits with the next discovery.


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