Quite a lot of M’s but it was a fairly easy choice on this first time through the alphabet. Jesse Malin is right up there among my favourites, since I discovered his music several years ago. My interest was attracted when he was featured on a Radio 2 documentary where various singer-songwriters talked about the influence of Bruce Springsteen on their work and I decided to give him a try, one of the best music decisions I have made. From his debut album “Fine Art of Self Destruction” (which Uncut magazine named its record of the year) to his more recent work with new band St. Mark’s Social, his output has been consistently excellent. Great live performer too – seen him twice in Birmingham, once in an absolutely superb acoustic set and with the band last year. Thoroughly recommended. So here goes with my five choices…
(1) Brooklyn – Iconic track from the debut album, remains my favourite of his songs. Like many musicians and bands I like, Jesse hails from New York and this is heavily reflected in his songs. One day, I really will manage to get myself over there and explore the NY/Jersey area where so much of my favourite music originated!
(2) Aftermath – Some fans found his “Glitter in the Gutter” album a bit lightweight, but I think it’s fantastic, with some brilliant songs such as this one. Many artists put the best tracks at the beginning and then the album fades away, but in this case two of the best songs are at the end. You listen to “New York Nights” (which very nearly made this list) and think it is superb but then, to round off the album, you get this one, taking it up another level.
(3) Burning The Bowery – Opening track of last year’s album with Jesse’s current band, St. Mark’s Social. As well as being a musician, Jesse runs a club in NYC (quite convenient when you’re in a band I expect) and his recent music grew out of that area of the city and the musicians he knew from playing there.
(4) I Hope I Don’t Fall In Love With You – A couple of years ago, Jesse released an album of covers called “On Your Sleeve” to mixed reaction among fans (actually being prepared to do something that fans question if that’s the way he wants to go is something I really admire him for). Some tracks work better than others, I think most of them are great and this is the one I like best, originally a Tom Waits song. Although Jesse didn’t write the simple yet brilliant lyrics, you would never know from the cynical and resigned way he delivers them.
(5) Almost Grown – Within the great tune and fantastic guitar riffs, and the (typically Malin-esque) 60s and 70s pop culture references lurks quite a dark song about growing up, and, the way I hear it, how losing a parent makes you grow up faster. The matter-of-fact delivery of the lines “I don’t care what they say others went and got away, I just want to see her again” are heartbreaking.
Lot of detail today, but I feel Jesse Malin deserves it. If you’re not familiar with his music, check him out!