Tony Jay: Perfect Worlds [Album Review]

Tony Jay
Perfect Worlds
Slumberland Records [2023]

San Francisco’s Tony Jay crafts a style of music that falls perfectly within my musical preferences. His slightly mysterious lo-fi bedroom pop has a unique ability to draw you into the lyrics, as the music and words seem to engage in a subtle battle for your attention. Recorded in 2021, Perfect Worlds adeptly captures the isolation and loneliness that many of us have experienced over the past few years. The album draws its material from various sources, including failed relationships, sleep deprivation, a bicycle injury, and battles with depression. It may not be the most uplifting album of the year, but the intimacy of the hidden melodies and the soft, understated vocals make it difficult to put away.

Led by Michael Ramos (known for his work with bands like Cindy, Flowertown, Al Harper, and Sad Eyed Beatniks), Tony Jay embarked on his recording journey in 2006. In 2017, he expanded his musical horizons by introducing a live band. The album Perfect Worlds was recorded right in Ramos’s bedroom and features the talents of Kelsey Faber, Alexis Harper, and Cameron Baker, along with guest vocals by Karina Gill (a member of Cindy, Flowertown, and Sad Eyed Beatniks). This collection of musicians adds to the album’s distinctive depth, which is particularly evident in moments of intricate richness, shining through even on the several instrumental tracks within the record.

Lyrically, there are standout lines on this record that truly captivate and engross you in a more desperate narrative. On the title track, Ramos sings, “The morning news brings in more stories of displacement; It throws me off my bike, face first into the pavement.” In “Just My Charm,” you’ll sadly encounter the lines, “And walk up that hill without you for the 100,000th time; If my words disarm, it’s just my charm.” Throughout the album, these tracks highlight Tony Jay’s remarkable ability to elicit deep emotional responses with minimalistic instrumentation. These songs exude a somber yet beautiful quality, capturing the essence of the lo-fi and slowcore genres. Just one listen provides a profound and immersive musical experience.

“Just My Charm” / “Talking In My Sleep” / “Perfect Worlds”

Codeine / Thom Fekete / Eric Gaffney

Instagram | Bandcamp | Slumberland Records

Thomas Wilde

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