It’s a simple task to dust off the pop sensibilities you swore off in high school, that’s been done repeatedly, but to analyze it and infuse it with intelligent chord phrasing is a trickier task. Running Mates is a well constructed album that changes key just as you expect it and never fatigues the listener with over repeated phrases or extended vamps.
It is refreshing to hear a band filled with talented musicians write and perform smart and acute rather than over embellishing the furthest limits of their abilities. Often times bands will over compensate with noise and abrasion but in Jaime Rojo the sonic landscape is not quite as dense and there is little room to hide. Even the album cover, two dancing lizard skeletons on a flat yellow background, is indicative of what this record represents because for all the simplicity in that image there are still hundreds of tiny bones in each skeleton.
Hats off to the grooviest indie rock album I’ve heard in a long time. The rhythm is just so highly tuned it’s no wonder many refer to Jaime Rojo as a dance indie band. Daniel Villarreal-Carrillo is widely known as an amazing drummer and it’s no surprise how well he performs on this record. Accented well with Neal Neumann’s bass they never seem to loose their cool no matter what the guitars are doing. It’s a fascinating dynamic that is immediately apparent at the onset of the album and continues flawlessly throughout. Nathan Karagianis syncopates his guitar with the rhythm section, often running through phrases percussively, locked on with the bass. This rhythmic sub-floor allows Jim Drake the musical space to craft subtle harmonies alongside Lilly Choi’s keys and vocals.
Early in the album I have to give it up to “Sorta Sorry” which is one of the catchiest songs on the record and what seems to be the standalone single. It encapsulates everything that is Jaime Rojo and should be pronounced their anthem.
Jim Drake began Jaime Rojo as a side project, populated it with great musicians from the surrounding scene, and hopefully will continue on with this great endeavour. If you had a chance to see them live at all in the past six months or so you will most likely recognize a handful of tracks, which was all the more pleasing for me.