Initial Impressions of Neil Jackson’s debut album, “The Little Things”

There’s a quote from my favorite movie, Playing By Heart, that goes “Talking about love is like dancing about architecture.” I feel the same way when it comes to writing about music. I’m not a professional critic, but I am a singer and I know what I like. And I like Neil Jackson (and not just because he’s hot and British).

The Little Things (Album Cover)This morning, I was running late, but the bus was running even later, so I ended up walking 30 blocks, most of it uphill, to get to work. This is after I blow-dried my hair and spent some time I actually trying to put together an outfit. I got to work, sweaty with windblown hair, but in a surprisingly good mood because I’d used the walk to listen to “The Little Things.”

I’ve followed Neil’s music for about a year now, back when he was just posting videos of him singing and playing his guitar in a little room on YouTube. (I guess that makes me a Hipster Neil Jackson Fan? Ha!) Because this was my introduction to him as a musician, I think he sounds best when you can hear his fingers, plucking the guitar strings as he croons the lyrics. His voice is smooth and rich, a soothing balm on my soul.

1. Holding a Candle
This was the first single (and video) from the album, but I think it’s the biggest outlier from his usual style. It’s more produced than any of the other tracks and even his accent fades when he sings. I enjoy the lyrics and melody, but I don’t think it’s indicative of the rest of the album.

2. Drive
The lyrics on this one weren’t my favorite, but I’ll listen to it over and over again for the lead guitar line. The faint bongo drums in the background give this a California feel, and I can easily imagine driving down PCH in the sunshine.

3. I’ll Be Your Home
As Neil tweeted about his experience recording the album, I was most curious about how the songs I was familiar with from YouTube would sound when properly recorded and mixed. The addition of a piano to the guitar helps balance the vocal effects, making it feel more produced. The last 30 seconds where everything drops out, except the piano, is exceptionally beautiful.

4. Hear in Time
It’s hard to keep the grin off my face as I listen to this little ditty. The pickin’ guitar and the rhythmic clapping just make me happy. It’s damn catchy and I know I’ll have this one in my head for a while now.

5. Save Me Tonight
Sad, whispery Neil with a guitar may be my favorite version of him. I really like the way the orchestra sneaks in gradually as the song goes along. There are moments when it overwhelms his subtle vocals, but the melodies are so pretty that I don’t really mind.

6. Gonna Have to Change
And we’re back to peppy and catchy, which just makes me smile (as does the surprise falsetto before the chorus). Again, this feels very California (shout out to the 405!) and I see the video taking place on the beach with lots of laughing, Frisbee and frolicking in the waves. His vocals feel very American, almost country, especially the little laugh at the end.

7. The Little Things
Neil’s British accent is back in full force on this track, which is fantastic. The guitar lines are even better than the YouTube version and his vocals are smoother, drawing you into the story of his Manic Pixie Dream Girl. I could have done without some of the other filler instruments, but that’s probably because I’m used to the stripped down version.

8. Got Your Own Shoes
I had to laugh at Neil’s use of “groovy” in the chorus (don’t worry, I had a similar reaction when Matt Morrison used “demagogue” in one of his songs), but then it gets sad, and I felt a little bad. It’s not my favorite track, as it has a lot going on, vocally and instrumentally. I’d be curious to hear the story behind this one.

9. Falling in Love
This is my new favorite song! It’s got a great jazzy piano/snare drum backing to Neil’s whispery vocal, evoking visions of dancing in a smokey club in a slinky black dress with a beautiful man. The trumpet solo in the bridge is unexpected, but it fits with the theme, even if it is a bit louder than the mood previously set.

10. When the World Was New
I absolutely adore the guitar line in this song and I love that Neil kept this one so simple, just acoustic guitar and his vocals. It’s the truest to the YouTube version, and yet the quality is just SO much better.

11. Rocket to Mars
This is the second single off the album and the video will be released next week. It seems much more indicative of Neil’s style, while incorporating the orchestra. And it only seems appropriate that the album end with a sweet guitar line.

I was already a fan, but the album has lived up to my expectations in almost every way (still needs “All That I Am!”). I’m hoping that there will be a live tour or at least a few shows in California because this music begs to be heard live. In the meantime, the digital download of Neil’s album is on sale at his website for $8.00 ($1.99 less than Amazon and iTunes), making it a great deal while putting a few more pence in Neil’s pocket.

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Music: In Which I Am a Neil Jackson Fangirl

It’s no secret that I love me some Neil Jackson. I mean, seriously, have you seen him? When I first started to follow him on Twitter earlier this year, he linked to his YouTube account of him playing guitar and singing. I admit I had a little trepidation when I first clicked over to watch, not knowing what to expect. But it turns out he’s AWESOME, just a guy and his guitar, singing right to my heart. (You may remember my flailing here.)

Since then, Neil has recorded his first album, The Little Things, which comes out February 4th. You can hear a preview of each of the songs on Amazon (but you should buy it from his website).

Last week, the first single, “Holding a Candle” came out with a video:

The video also features Chelsea Hobbs (aka Emily from Make It or Break It), which was fabulous to see. I’ll admit I was a little squicked to see them together as the couple, since the last time I saw them on screen together, she was playing MUCH younger and he was playing her coach. But she’s ridiculously adorable and it’s easy to see why Video!Neil would be in the love with her. The lip-sync at the beginning of the video is off (and a bit distracting), but by the time, he gets to the chorus, it’s back together. The video storyline reminded me a lot of Easton Corbin’s “Lovin’ You is Fun”, with the guy singing about the pretty girl he loves, but this is clearly more grown-up. I also LOVED the improvised shot of Neil backlit in the rain.

I’m disappointed that my favorite song, “All That I Am,” isn’t on this album, but I’ve been promised it will be on the next one. That said, I’ve already listened to “Holding a Candle” enough times now that I can sing along, so clearly, it’s fantastic as well! Is it February yet?!

In Celebration of My 10,000th Tweet

I joined Twitter on April 20, 2009. In those 1,221 days, I’ve managed to tweet 10,000 times. That’s way more than I ever thought possible when I joined three years ago. I joined to keep up with @joshgroban and @rainnwilson because their updates were overwhelming my Google Reader. I picked my Twitter handle because I planned to tweet from my various trips (and also because JennInTheCity was already taken!). I did live-tweet my trip to Chicago the next month, using my clamshell cell phone to post grainy pictures of Wrigley Field and Italian ices. But it’s become so much more than that. Continue reading

UK: “If we bring a little joy into your humdrum lives, it makes us feel as though our hard work ain’t been in vain for nothin’.”

Jenn and Katia’s (London) Day of Fun! (said like this)

Pillow Princess Diana looking down on Pillow Prince William and Pillow Duchess Catherine from Heaven

Monday, May 28, 2012
The day did not start off well. About 20 minutes before my alarm was due to go off, I woke suddenly to buzzing around the room. Katia woke with a yelp as well as we tried to determine what was going on in our sleepy states. We had left the windows cracked overnight as it had been SO hot in the flat when we’d returned the previous evening. It appeared that a large SOMETHING had come into the flat, done a lap and was now perched on the window behind her sheer curtains. After some hushed, tense discussion, Katia bravely opened the window all the way in the hopes that the SOMETHING would fly out. We tried to get ready for the day, while keeping on eye on the window and its SOMETHING. Finally, about 10 minutes before we had to leave the flat to catch the bus, the SOMETHING left her flat via the open window! I suggested that we leave all the windows totally closed all day because I’d much rather come home after a long day in London to a hot flat than one invested with SOMETHINGs. Katia agreed and we checked all the windows and surrounding areas for flying/buzzing creatures before locking up the windows and heading on our way. I had not been looking forward to another early morning, but that incident definitely got my blood pumping!

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4 Things I’m Obsessed With Right Now


1. Okay, you know how I went down the Netflix rabbit hole, Neil Jackson style? Well, now it turns out, dude can SING! And play guitar! And makes videos of himself wearing a beanie, drinking a beer and then singing while play guitar. So, it’s possible I’m a little in love with him now. Sorry Neil – it’s your own fault, really!

2. 100 days until the Olympics!
Okay, fair warning, I freakin’ LOVE the Olympics and will likely be blogging a lot more about them as we get closer. Add in my love of London in general and I’m SUPER PSYCHED that we are less than 100 days out from the Summer Games! Bring on the gymnastics, swimming, diving, and all the sports I only care about every four years!

3. Wednesday night’s Giants game
Brandon Belt sums it up quite well actually. This is the first game of the season that I watched on the edge of my seat. I was groaning, clapping and yelling at the TV all game long, but nothing felt better than jumping off my couch, screaming and clapping when Brandon crossed home plate. I was cheering like I was in the stadium, and laughing when the boys ran out of the dugout for a dog pile. Fingers crossed for that kind of awesomeness next month when I head to AT&T Park for the first time this season!

4. NY-LON
As preparation for my upcoming trip to the UK, my friend Katie recommended this short UK series about a New Yorker (Rashida Jones) and a Londoner (Stephen Moyer) trying to make a trans-Atlantic relationship work after a chance encounter at a London pub. I’m halfway through the meager seven episodes and I’m completely hooked!