Jimmy Sullivan has been laying low since the break up of Oliver Houston, the epitomal emo band of Grand Rapids, which he joined for the recording of their last EP, Mixed Reviews. In the time between now and then, he has been at a crossroads, some stuck in-between. He crashed at his dad’s house for a while. He recorded some songs there. He recorded some songs elsewhere. Eventually, all the lazy, nodding, bouncing tracks of the EP Gotta Get to Work were recorded. Sam Hall of Ghost Orchard helped him mix and master it.
This new project is a stylistic slight-right from his last, Glum. Where Glum maintained a poppy linearity and coherence, Choral Reef drifts and slips through and around your hands and ears. What remains is Jimmy’s catchy, karaoke voice that leans low-fi in the mix. What’s added is an exploration of styles (from an indie-mumble to funk), some casio beats and synth tones, and a capturing lack of coherence.
In short, these recordings sound like Beck, if Beck had been in an emo band and worked at a juice bar across the street.
Here are some thoughts collected while listening to the EP.
It doesn’t sound like a far departure from the Glum songs, but the moods are different. The guitar riff makes me want to get in my car and drive, but the chorus (chorus(?) gosh these lyrics are stream of consciousness) really bums me out. The opening line “one glass of white wine / dumbed down and diluted / gives me all my lines” paired with a following one, “I’m tryna switch myself / into the conscious type, / but they don’t teach you that type of shit in highschool” sets up what is to come, in terms of the lyrics.
The longest track of the set. Some lengthy instrumental breaks in this one… Definitely not a song to sing at karaoke night. What the lack of words leaves room for is some life to be breathed in. More instruments, more guitars hard-panned to the left or right. “So I’ll give it a soolliiid… THREEE stars.” is a line that will swim around in my head for a minute.
Gotta get to work:
Softer and sing-songy melody. What starts off as statements of self-efficacy swing back in the second half of the song as pleadings to stay asleep. Kyle’s Oliver Houston songwriting sounds like it rubbed off on Jimmy on this one, and the tight composition at the end with the plucked palm mutes is really something.
My friends and our jobs:
A jarring shock. But… A good jarring shock. A satisfying one.
This cowboy tune plods along like John Wayne galloping on a horse to the ranch back in texas or something, after lassoing the bad guy. Insert classic melancholy emo chorus.
A little funky guitar here. The casio beats kicks in on this one. Sharp changes between the verse and chorus. It’s also the only track that Jimmy breaks into paragraphs, stanzas, whatever, in the bandcamp lyrics, the rest are just blocks. An album that begins with a rough attitude toward getting to it and getting things done ends with affirmations and a dedication to trying to do good.