Jake Nicoll’s “Two Things/Half of Nothing” gives us thoughtful songs, in a beautifully produced double album that is mixed to perfection. There is a youthful spirit in Jake’s voice, with a pronounced delivery, that’s instantly disarming. A comparison to Sufjan Stevens comes to mind, but there is truly an irreplaceable mood in Jake’s music, and particularly in this album. Both playful and sincere. As a drummer, the sense of timing and form is incredibly tight. Interesting arrangements help snare attention on repeat listens, with a sense of experimentation that helps evade easy categorization. There is a warmth in production and instrumentation, with a complimentary mix of piano, drums, synthesizers, strings, and electric guitars weaving a tonal fabric that sounds both nostalgic, and completely in and of it’s time. Both experimental, and accessible. DIY spirit, with an incredible attention to detail. Every moving part is placed perfectly in the mix, to support the landscape of each track. Clarity and balance in production also help make this such a pleasing listen.
Jake’s lyrical depth is also an integral part of this album. Bringing about the thoughts and doubts that reflect the life of a touring musician. Exploring the growth of human conditions, and excavating feelings of nostalgia. Understated, and relatable. This pairs well with an incredibly captivating sense of melody. Unafraid to stretch melodic lines over a wide range, with depth in every hook. On the first half, the title track “Half of Nothing” makes great use of this, opening up in the chorus for one of the most triumphant moments of the album. The proceeding track, “Little Lies” retreats to a hushed, introspective and haunting piano-led waltz. Showing us Jake’s dexterity with songwriting. On the first half we’re also given the conversational exchange, and chugging pulse of “Once You Start Asking”, the melismatic falsetto of “Dream”, and a wash of vocal revelry, with passionate drumming on “Forms”. The second half (“Two Things”) opens up with the calculated, synth driver “Story of Your Life”, furthering proof of Jake’s skills as a writer and producer. We’re then brought through another complex range of songs, from the swagger inducing “Two Things”, to the raucous “Reassuring Song”, the delicate and infectious “Make Believe Misery”, the subtle and remorseful sentiment of “Falling in Love”, to the closing solo of “So Many Songs”, swirling on a dying tape. There are too many amazing moments to list. Amongst two albums worth of carefully produced, meaningful songs.
In a time when music is so easily diluted, it’s nice to know Jake is hidden away in his solace, crafting songs like these.
Songs with an other-worldly melodic sensibility, and exciting, relatable content. With a great sense of harmonic movement, and an instinctual ebb and flow, unafraid to serve what’s best for each song. This is a very exciting album, and a huge addition to the catalogue of music from this province. It’s rare for an artist to release a double album. Rarer still that it can hold attention for it’s entirety. I strongly suggest you listen to this album.
– Steve Maloney
(Printed in the Overcast, March 2016 issue)