Sometimes you’ve just got to chill out. Grab a beer, roll a joint, light a cigarette––whatever––so long as it helps you block out the bad vibes that just won’t seem to go away. Of course, moments like this demand a soundtrack, and Jau Ocean’s debut album, Icecream Daydream, will do just fine.
Jau Ocean is the solo project of Rick Irby, who you may be familiar with from area bands Paperhaus and Wanted Man. But Jau Ocean is nothing like those bands. Sure, there’s traces to be found of the psychedelic indie-pop of Paperhaus and Wanted Man’s swagger-laden rock ‘n’ roll; the album title really says it all. This is a daydream, a place for Irby’s mind to drift and wander, and while it may not be the main course, it sure is tasty.
The structure of the album does a great deal to emphasize that dreamy feel: it’s a single instrumental track that comes in at nearly thirty minutes. Now, that’s not to say that there aren’t defined movements here, because there absolutely are. Irby uses these divisions to move between musical styles, touching on everything from R&B to the familiar territory of indie pop.
The album opens slowly, luring in listeners with a jazzy mix of guitar, bass, and keys. The guitar work is precise and allows Irby to show off a bit, but it never becomes overbearing. Much of the same can be said for the bass and the drums, offering quietly impressive performances that drive the early portion of the album forward. Interestingly, the background is populated by a drone-y synth sound, holding it all together. It’s very easy for this part of the early goings to get lost, but it’s essential to the overall feel of the piece, adding a spacey, ethereal element to an otherwise very grounded composition.
As Icecream Daydream continues to build in intensity, the bass takes on a decidedly fuzzier tone while the drums become more energetic. While these two instruments remain mainstays of the middle portion of the album, guitar and synth take turns swapping the leading roles, with moments of jangling guitar giving way to some really spacey synths—leading into some choppy, heavily distorted guitar. The last heavy guitar-centric segment is particularly compelling, with an improvised feeling; something that Irby managed to drag out of his guitar at precisely the right moment. It makes for a rather stirring moment before a somewhat abrupt conclusion in one of the album’s lone hard stops.
Irby concludes Icecream Daydream the same way he begins it: chilled. Back is the groovy bass, the twinkling clean guitars, and the finessed drums, reminding listeners why they came here in the first place: To calm down and chill out. To eat ice cream for dinner. To let their minds wander and maybe get a little bit out there.