If you have not heard “Blue” by The Jayhawks, stop reading and click here right now. And when you’re done tell me “Blue” isn’t one of the most perfectly realized pop songs ever with its gorgeous country-rock harmonies and bittersweet melody. Every time I listen to that song it still makes my heart hurt in a good way. Seriously though, I originally sat down to review this new song, but ended up just listening to “Blue” on repeat for about fifteen times thinking wistfully about past relationships and shit. “Blue” is from the 1995 album, Tomorrow The Green Grass, which is a benchmark of 90s Americana combining the melodic hooks of Big Star and the plaintive country-rock of The Byrds’ Sweetheart of the Rodeo. It’s the only Jayhawks album I’ve listened to and while I’ve mainly focused on “Blue” for the entirety of this introduction , the entire LP is fantastic.
The group just released their ninth studio album entitled Paging Mr. Proust since they formed in 1985. Unfortunately, a band staying relevant and exciting for thirty years can be difficult. And there’s nothing worse than a once great band clinging on desperately only to suffer a slow ignominious decline. “Quiet Corners and Empty Spaces” is the opening track on the new album and I have to say The Jayhawks have aged gracefully. The song reminds me of R.E.M. which makes sense since Peter Buck helped produce it. The rhythmic folk guitar strums combined with the shimmering guitars trace out an aching melody. The layered vocals are absolutely beautiful, the harmonizing “oohs” in the background adding a rich resonance.
According to frontman Gary Louris, the lyrics are about “finding a spot where you can be introspective, away from the noise, and get your head together.” And it’s a spot that I’ll be returning to regularly.
4 out of 5