Jaguar Sun is an experimental dream pop project of graphic designer and multi-instrumentalist Chris Minielly. His debut This Empty Town was released on July 24 via Born Losers Records and has blown me away with each listen. Minielly’s music is lush and spacious, making use of layered vocals and shimmering synths to create gorgeous soundscapes.
While most artists under the label dreampop have a tendency for melancholy and introspection, I find Minielly’s choice of sounds to be bright and full of exuberance. At its core, he describes these songs as nostalgic love songs — accentuated by the use of slide guitars and washed-up vocals, with lyrics where he constantly weaves through fond rememberings of the past. But to me the use of reverb and the choir-like effect in which the vocals are arranged evoke a sense of triumph. It’s as if these songs are being sung in a grand cathedral with crystalline walls. Spots of bittersweetness may seep through the cracks but as I keep listening I constantly get a sense that hope ultimately prevails.
This feeling hits immediately in opener “Red”, where the vocals glimmer with each repetition of the verse. Bright strings and synths fill the atmosphere with awe and grandeur. As the line “Please just stay for a while and set me free” concludes each verse I get the sense of sunrise slowly rising through the darkness.
In the single “Keeps You Warm”, Minielly relates struggles in a relationship as he sings “We never got it right”, but as the chorus comes in he declares: “You’ll be alright / I’ll keep you warm”. Adding a positive message that contrasts the rambling and worried mood of the verses.
This album features strong nostalgic feelings through its eight tracks. In “Those Days”, Minielly lays out vignettes of old times on a cozy bed of chords and synths: “Those days / Long drives / Your touch / Butterflies”. In the title track, colorful arpeggios blend to illustrate the feeling of excitement and fondness when going back to your hometown. Minielly uses the same repetition of verses that livens up “Red”. He may be reminiscing about days long gone while looking at his now empty town, but at the end the music evokes a comfy feeling that makes you feel right at home.
This Empty Town is a stunning debut and a promising first offering for Jaguar Sun. This is an impressive achievement especially for a project that is self written and produced. I suggest everyone give it a go.