Jamaican Queens

Notown Records, 2013


REVIEW BY: Tom Haugen


Calling Detroit trio Jamaican Queens an unusual band might be doing them a disservice. Self-described as “Trap Pop,” their indie-rock roots are stirred up with electronic beats, samples, drum machines, and endless layers of acoustic guitar. Though on paper it may sound like a messy venture, the band actually flesh out a sound that brings to mind The Flaming Lips, Brian Eno or any number of current indie hip-hop artists like Why?. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Things aren't always so complicated though. “Kids Get Away” and “Water” contain plenty of pop hooks and memorable choruses packed up as ideal singles, the former being a song about muggings with plenty of bleeps and glitches, and the latter starting out fuzzy and futuristic before settling into a folksy/hip-hop groove. As the album progresses, though, things get darker and slower,  with “Wellfleet Outro” getting haunting in a Portishead sort of way that sounds like it's made for late-night mulling. This is then punctuated by “Sharkteeth,” which is disguised as straight forward folk-pop before evolving into experimental bursts of flailing percussion and reckless electronica.

Always unpredictable, Jamaican Queens ensure no two songs resemble one another here. If you compare the sparseness of the less than one minute long "Wormfood" versus the over six minutes of "Caitlin," where multiple voices spread out over the genre-defying layering, it hardly seems like the same band. Similarly, "Can't Say No To Annie" is the most blatant hip-hop moment, whereas later on "Asleep At The Wheel" starts off like R&B balladry.

A highly produced album, Wormfood still finds the Jamaican Queens keeping things human and drawing from plenty of organic ideas. A sci-fi mashing of fuzzed-out space rock, ebbs of surf-like calmness, dirty disco vibes and vocals that span singing to talking to incoherent noises, this album offers plenty of eccentricity. Most people aren't going to get the premise of this band—but those who do are going to be enamored.

Rating: B+

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