Jamaican Queens - Wormfood
Record Label: Notown Records
Release Date: March 5, 2013
Here's to taking risks.
Wormfood, the full-length debut album from Detroit's Jamaican Queens is a daring, dense and dream-laden whirlwind of a disc. The LP opens with "Water," a spoken word effort that veers towards hip-hop to start, the segues to R&B and slowly opens up into something worth paying attention to. Vocalist Ryan Spencer does not put up his best vocals but the song has a lot going on and the clunky sonic terrain allows the song to be something worth coming back to. Slow-moving and rewarding, "Water" is a compelling affair about apologia and the first moment on Wormfood that one realizes this disc will be anything but conventional.
Buzzy lead single "Kids Get Away" follows and rattles off a yarn about stalking and inner city violence. While it served as an attention-grabber when they first started out, it feels sort of misplaced here. "Black Madonna" is a lazy slacker song thick with summer heat. There's ample amounts of machinated noises and is the first distinct song when their self-described trap-pop roots show their face. It is also the first time at which the band's penchant for soft drugs begins to take a formidable shape.
After this somewhat sluggish start, the disc truly takes off. "Annie" is another nod to the band's professed love of hip-hop and arguably the most human song on the first half. Easily one of the best songs the band has written to date, "Annie" is both empathetic, ebullient and earnest. The title track is 45 seconds of an uncredited female cooing languorously and the first point at which Spencer is comfortable taking a backseat.
The disc's second half opens with "Wellfleet Outro," another homage to their urban roots and as dark and haunting an effort as anything else on Wormfood. Decidedly subdued and understated, "Wellfleet" allows Spencer to interplay with the female from Annie and the result is both affecting and accessible. Ostensibly a song about the demise of a domestic relationship, "Wellfleet Outro" is arguably one of 2013's strongest and the kind of song that will carry Jamaican Queens outside of Michigan and onto larger stages.
"Sharkteeth" is another effort for Spencer to prove his vulnerability. Understated like its predecessor and another honest and bare-bones look at 20-something life, "Sharkteeth" is perhaps the band's calling card on full display. In short, the trio is writing and performing songs that 20-something males can relate to. Even when the song gets experimental and psychedelic towards the latter stages they still manage to possess something charismatic and captivating. If the song proves anything though it is most assuredly that Jamaican Queens are intrinsically talented and on the cusp of something career defining.
Penultimate offering "Asleep at the Wheel" is placid and spartan; a study in restraint, if you will. As the song unwraps itself, it is clear that the band once again has its pulse on something distinct and profound. It is also here that one can see how considerably stronger the second half of the disc truly is. Wormfood closes out with the languorous "Caitlin," a paean to revisionist history that finds Spencer looking back at an old flame and rekindling old wounds. Once again, it's a song as simple, human and honest as it comes and further proof that Detroit's best band just might be this brainy and daring trio.