Prolific artists are intriguing, especially those who can operate across a wide variety of genres. When that artist is also a music journalist/label stakeholder/media figure, things get real interesting. Saint-Jack is the solo personna of Fredericton based singer songwriter JE Sheehy and one of many musical projects for the 28 year old (his other bands include Beard Springsteen, The Trick, and Deep Fryer). His debut 3 song EP ‘Birmingham’ was released on Nov. 28th on Bored Coast Records and is a nice addition to Sheehy’s growing catalogue of genre and discipline spanning creative work.
When asked about whether these projects flow into one another, Saint-Jack replies, “There’s a lot of similarities between Beard Springsteen and Saint-Jack since I’m the main songwriter, but for me, the musicality of these projects serves as a tool to express different things; Beard Springsteen is a lot more immediate and urgent, whereas Saint-Jack requires more distance and thoughts.”
The EP starts off with ‘Graduation’ featuring a nice organic guitar sound juxtaposed to a driving synthetic tempo. The melodic, near spoken vocal pulls it together effectively, while chugging along with the right amount of tension. The song ends with a wavy electro texture that continues directly into track two, ‘Je te déteste, Fredericton’.
When I first saw the name of the song I was immediately curious. Translated to “I Hate You, Fredericton”, the author associates the hurt of a breakup to the painful familiarity of his surroundings. He writes (translated):
“I dream of leaving you, but I take King and Queen to guide me
Traces of broken hearts, your street names blend with the past”
Contrary to the theme of the song, the author discusses his love for the city: “It has a great influence. Fredericton is a fantastic place for original music and it’s definitely very powerful to be experiencing two cultures and languages at the same time. No one’s really sang about Fredericton in French before too, so it’s great to be able to discuss those landmarks and experiences inside of those songs.” The more I listen to this track, the more I like it. The friendly guitar hook reminds me of the melodic simplicity of the 80s/90s Canadian instrumental rockers Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet.
The EP’s closer is ‘L’été’, the moodiest of the three. A melancholic piano riff haunts the tune as Saint Jack sings about solitude, certainty, and longing. Continuing with the theme of lost love and heartache, he sings about the end of a period of upheaval and turbulence; “And will come the end. Seven years later, no more tomorrows.”
This EP alone sits well in any category regardless of language, and fits nicely into an impressive year of releases from Acadie. Offering his views on the bilingual musical landscape in the province, Sheehy says, “I think in general, in New Brunswick, both musical communities are more curious than ever about what’s being done in both languages. It has to do with the general quality of the music coming out of here. I’m very happy that I’ve received coverage by outlets in the two languages and I’m glad that what I do somehow transcends the language barrier. Even if someone doesn’t understand the lyrics, the melancholy is pretty universal.”
Coupled with the fact that it’s a piece of the creative output of the multidimensional musical world of JE Sheehy, ‘Birmingham’ is enjoyable and interesting at the same time. Sheehy has carved himself a nice presence on the East Coast scene, and through Saint-Jack it looks like he’s digging even deeper.