April 22, 2022
It’s been nearly seven years since Charlotte indie folk band Jude Moses released their debut album, We Won’t Die. If you were worried about the length of time between releases being too long then their newest offering, The Beauty, should ease those concerns.
“I hope this record helps folks reconnect with loved ones that they may have fallen out of touch with or spend more time outside to rekindle a bond with the plants and animals of this planet,” frontman Stephen Williams said. “The goal of this record was to make something genuine. We went into the process with that in mind and came out with a love letter to our earth and the wonderful people we get to share it with.”
Where the band’s debut album, We Won’t Die, was a little bit darker in terms of composition and lyrics, The Beauty is lighthearted and hopeful. The album begins with “Kokoro,” a track that sets up the album’s overall sonic palate with tight vocal harmonies and intricate instrumentals. The album ebbs and flows between periods of minimal instrumentation and sections of heavily layered sounds. “Kokoro” specifically showcases every member of Jude Moses, from the drumming and guitar work, to the vocals and dense soundscapes.
When it comes to the album production, everyone in Jude Moses had a hand in writing and recording. Williams takes the lead on vocals, while also contributing guitar and percussion work on the album. Jesse Proctor is responsible for the drums and percussions on the record, but you can also hear him on background vocals, organ, cello, and some guitars. Shae Wooten and Kevin Smith handle bass and electric guitar, respectively, and Josh Brown is on horns.
While all members of the band bring something to the table, Williams heads the songwriting. “I figure out the majority of the melodies and lyrics to start us off,” Williams said of the production process. “Jesse Proctor and I collaborated closely to arrange and produce the songs before the rest of the band jumped in to add their layers of expertise.”
The songs are then layered with additional instrumentation provided by Wooten and Smith, who Williams noted are some of the most “creative players in Charlotte.”
“The parts they come up with blow my mind over and over again. I’m also very proud that we collectively played all of the instruments on the album,” he said.
“Isle of Skye,” the lead single off the album, brings an easy-going folk rock vibe to the table, with a catchy chorus melody, a driving bass groove, and a steady beat. The lead guitar on the track stands out as a highlight of this feel-good jam that should be a staple of the band’s discography moving forward.
As the instruments fade on “Isle of Skye,” a calm bed of sound seamlessly transitions into “So Far From Home.” This track starts out as a folky jaunt before the instruments change direction, building layer upon layer. It’s anchored by Williams lamenting he is “so far from home,” a vocal line that echoes and builds throughout the second half of the song.
“Golden Grass,” is a sonic bridge into the second half of the album, in which a variety of sounds and melodies weave in and out of the stereo field. The inclusion of an instrumental track on the album speaks to the band’s ability to tell a story even without words.
The final two tracks on the album present a clear message: slow down and take time to appreciate the everyday life. “The Park” shines as an acoustic guitar-focused track with layers of piano and rhythm guitar complementing the melody. As Williams sings “Can we go to the park, and walk around in the dark?” the melody descends beautifully against the instrumentation, and closes with a subtle layer of sound and textures.
On album closer, “The Multicolored Beast,” Williams invites the listener to share in his appreciation of nature, singing the line, “I want to see the beauty of the world with you.” The track is driven by drums from the very beginning, showing off Proctor’s ability to choose a rhythm that fits the mood of the track without being distracting.
From start to finish, The Beauty has a warmth about it, as the record sounds like something produced in the days of analog recordings. Among the warmth there is a balance of a polished album that still feels raw at times, with its intimate vocals and instruments. The album is intentional, with meticulous attention to detail paid to the vocals, instruments, and everything in between– nothing feels out of place.
A lot has happened in the seven years since Jude Moses released their first album, and this new effort shows the maturation of the band compared to When We Die. Even though the overall style is different, there is still a sense of familiarity in the fingerprint of the music, and The Beauty remains true to the established style of Jude Moses.