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Album Review: Jesse Malin – New York Before the War

3 min read

US rock singer/songwriter Jesse Malin has been in and out of bands since he was 12 years old, most notably as the lead singer of glam punk group D Generation for eight years; in between bands he never stopped writing songs and pursued a solo career, beginning with his debut EP 169 in 2002, followed by his debut album The Fine Art of Self Destruction. It has now been five years since Malin has released a new album, but he has now returned with his seventh studio album New York Before The War; we are said to expect an album that acts as a soundtrack to a meaningful life, as well as it covering the respect Malin has for his origins and embracing the future with both hands. Sound like a solid album!

Jesse Malin - New York Before The WarHaunting ballad The Dreamers opens up the album, the piano carrying the track with poise, nailing the song’s concept of alienation and the loneliness felt when abroad; the more upbeat Addicted captures the essence of Malin’s nasality, a quality you’ll grow to appreciate about his vocals, the arrangement overall is fun with its snappy bass line and steady beat. The guitars are edgy in the rocky Turn Up The Mains, a suitable title which best describes how this album has gone from melancholy and beat happy to a decent rock number; Oh Sheena is also a nice little number, a little strained in parts, but a treat nonetheless. She’s So Dangerous really touches you in its waking seconds, its verses remind you a little of R.E.M’s Everybody Hurts but not so much that it rips it off, this is a track that is guaranteed to keep you from beginning to end; The Year That I Was Born is a nice and easy track that smooths out the album’s edges.

A persistent beat and the prominent bass line in Boots Of Immigration are accompanied by the constant lick of the guitar and a subtle vocal, this track has a warm ambience about it; Freeway is a little shaky, literally, the arrangement is on par but the vocal is a tad questionable. Bent Up depicts the demise of a close friend and ex bandmate of Malin’s from a drug overdose, it’s got a fun tune to it which is irony at its finest, it’s all fun and games until it goes too far; She Don’t Love Me Now almost has an island feel to it, the brass really sets the tone and helps make it a stand out, there’s almost silence amidst the vocals in the bridge and we hear a rawness we haven’t yet heard. Deathstar isn’t so much a memorable track on the album, the guitars are great but you find yourself not following anything else going on during the track’s duration; I Would Do It For You brings back the sentimental vibe with its airiness and simplicity, much needed. Bar Life begins a little strangely, the melody in its first verse didn’t sound like it worked, but by the time the second verse came in it flowed more precisely.

Jesse Malin has something good going with New York Before The War, it’s without a doubt a more personal album lyrically and sonically; you couldn’t help but feel like a part of his journey of self realisation and nostalgia. There is something unique about the way he writes his music, these tracks are pretty atmospheric and engaging overall, but there were times where you questioned whether certain elements or qualities worked well within particular songs or not. New York Before The War does manage to connect listeners to it in one way or another, whether you are a fan of Jesse Malin or simply relate to the lyrics, this album does touch you.