It’s time to take another look at an artist who both released an album this year and happens to be playing at next weekend’s Ottawa CityFolk! Montreal’s John Jacob Magistery was somewhat of an unknown quantity until this July. After garnering some attention for an EP release in 2014, many patiently awaited the first full-length effort from a promising young band. After two years of hard work, the band released Phantom I / Are You Too Sensitive?, and in doing so have made a definitive statement to the music world.
The album starts slow and dramatic, with a soulful, brooding indie folk tune in “Captain of the Sea”, but this overture only hints at the raw power that defines Phantom I / Are You Too Sensitive?. “Carol” launches the listener into a driving indie rock sound characterized by frantic vocals, echoing textures, and distorted guitar. Indie rock makes up the majority of the album, but John Jacob Magistery made sure that they would return to a quieter folk vibe to give the listener a bit of a breather.
Phantom I / Are You Too Sensitive? is not an album that feels like a debut. This record is meticulously crafted, beautifully produced, and shows a maturity of songwriting that is not often found on a musician’s first offering. However, if there is one criticism I have of the album it’s that the overall style is not the completely original. Particularly in the vocal department, John Jacob Magistery sounds strikingly similar to a crossover between Arcade Fire and Hey Rosetta!. If someone played a song like “Let the Joy Thru” and told me it was a new Arcade Fire single, it would strike me as a new direction from a familiar band. Regardless, Phantom I / Are You Too Sensitive? is well worth listening to, particularly if you are an Arcade Fire fan.
The emotionally-driven energy of John Jacob Magistery leads me to believe that they will put on one hell of a show, but I won’t know for sure until their performance at Ottawa CityFolk. They’ll be playing on Friday, September 16, on the Ravenlaw Stage at 6:30. I know I’ll be there to see a little more of who John Jacob Magistery is. You can find all the CityFolk lineup and ticket info here.