Occasional Din

J Fernandez

Joyful Noise Records, 2018


REVIEW BY: Tom Haugen


The recording moniker of Justin Fernandez, an Arkansas born artist who now resides in Chicago, J Fernandez has been busy in recent years with a handful of EPs and two albums under his belt. Taking an unusual songwriting approach, demos are built from an organ and Casio drum machine before being fleshed out with influences from Italian pop and even film scores in this highly creative sophomore record. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Utilizing atypical instruments like a vibraphone, clavinet and harpsichord, Occasional Din gets off to a psych pop flavored start with the calm melodies of “Common Sense,” and “Unwind” follows with a firm tempo, crisp percussion, and swirling melodica. Elsewhere, “Volcanic Winter” brings a moody setting to eclectic indie rock with a bright vibraphone, while the tambourines of “Don't Need Anything” complement the jangly atmosphere and flowing tunefulness.

The back half of the listen doesn't disappoint either. “Expressive Machine” offers us swift, orchestral influenced sounds in a breezy and playful album highlight, and “Rewards,” a tune penned in the form of an online survey, delivers experimental ideas to the summery affair. Near the end, “Assorted Balloons” is a brief, hazy, ambient instrumental, and “Method Acting” tips its hat to retro-folk song craft with layered vocals. The listen exits on “Light Years,” a warbly pop finisher where '60s nods are present and filtered through Fernandez's filter.

Fernandez plays pretty much everything on the album, and his vision is one that's not easy to categorize. While some moments hint at '90s alt-rock, other times sunny melodies à la The Beach Boys or minimal electronica in the vein of Stereolab are present.

This release is ultimately a very impressive and varied take on today's indie rock from a record label that's known for their creative, highly underappreciated artists. It also comes with a download code, a great sleeve, and colored vinyl for you collector nerds.

Rating: B+

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