It’s hard to put a finger on Just People, but if I were to describe Just People as a power animal, it would be a jaguar—elusive, yet majestic and authoritative.With its new vibrant and aptly titled album, Light/Weight, Just People has laid the groundwork for creating a new standard for the Portland pop rock scene.
There are many potent elements at play with Light/Weight that make it an incredibly accessible and crucial release for fans of local music. Almost every song seems perfectly plucked from a groove-filled fruit tree of pop essentials. There’s soul. There’s groove. There’s dance. There’s joy.
“Passion” starts with such a big band feel it would make Michael Bublé jealous, and then it falls into Just People territory—a seasoned blend of Train, Cage the Elephant, and the Talking Heads. It’s an energetic romp that sets up the album for some strong uplifting moments of wellbeing.Gilmore’s sultry and comforting voice beckons comparison to Amos Lee with a little more pep in his step.
Rhythm guitarist Ian Ridgeway stands out on “Packing Tape,” giving an almost ska/reggae feel to this pompously enthusiastic track. However, this song marks the only in which the lyrics aren’t much to be desired. “I’ll be your packing tape/it’s a beautiful thing to keep your life together/And you’ll write me all of my songs/I don’t care how long we make it/You know there’s no such thing as us or forever/So, keep me in tune and I’ll keep you along.” I simply have no idea what is meaning to be said here—sure, to some, the music would mask the weakness of these lyrics, but they stood out to me like a sore thumb.
The group has also written one of the most embarrassingly simplistic song titles, “Tomorrow is Tomorrow.” I laughed when I read the track listing, but this actually made me more excited to hear the song, and the song definitely delivers as one of the strongest tracks on the album. It’s straightforward and it packs a good punch. It seems Ridgeway is once again the driving force on this track, which showcases my favorite vocal performance from singer, Scott Gilmore. Not to mention the ear-shatteringly heroic solo by lead guitarist, Peter Marcott.
Gilmore’s sultry and comforting voice beckons comparison to Amos Lee with a little more pep in his step. While I feel his range isn’t terribly impressive, he maintains consistency in each song, which I feel is better than when some groups having a few tracks where the vocalist sounds bored. Gilmore has impressive diction and delivery on each song—sometimes spitting out lyrics at a rapper’s pace. I applaud this, Mr. Gilmore.
“Get It” should be played loud, preferably for large crowds dancing in close quarters. If a crowd isn’t nearby, simply turning up ones headphones will suffice. Todd Gee’s bass line on the track reminds me of Alex Katunich on the early Incubus albums—circa Fungus Amongus and S.C.I.E.N.C.E., which is an impressive feat, because Katunich has laid down some of my favorite bass licks ever. Gee’s work on the album is truly dominant, combined with animated drumming from Alex Greene and another killer solo from Marcott, this song marks one of the strongest instrumental breaks on the album.
When “Ever Onward” hit, I was eager to find myself overcome with pure joy. It’s a comforting track in all essence of the word. It might be the trumpets; it might be Greene’s ardent drumming—whatever it is, I’ve come back to it many times when cycling through the album because it puts an endearing smile on my face.
I feel the tracks beginning to meld together toward the end of the album, which might have been a purposeful tactic, but I was missing something. The final track, the title track, brings everything together as it should, but I felt it lacking in energy until its epic break out at the end. Marcott once again saturates the listener in a soulful solo while Gee executes another intoxicating lick. It’s an eight-minute track—four minutes of mediocrity followed by four strong minutes of gold. Maybe that’s the Light/Weight conundrum, I’m not sure.
My only major tiff with the album was its artwork—not because it doesn’t look appealing, because it does look appealing. Take a second and scroll up to view the artwork. At first their album art may be a bit misleading, as I actually showed it to many of my friends and simply asked what they thought the band name was—most responded, Light/Weight. And now, I know the process of creating album art and it’s near impossible to make a change like this after an album has been duplicated. But it seemed like something that could’ve been altered earlier. Regardless, this minor quarrel doesn’t detract from how impressive this release is.
Just People is comprised of five extremely talented musicians who have a lot to offer for a wide variety of listeners. Each track on Light/Weight is a journey to where the human condition has gone and will continue to explore. It’s an imposing release that should carry them into much success.