Aural Pleasure

By Dave Maher

I form relationships with bands the way a lot of people form romantic relationships, and I don’t think I’m alone in this. Long-time fans react a lot like lovers when their favorite bands gain popularity. They often distance themselves or even break up with the band, but there are also times when they actually learn to adapt to the changes and stay together. When I can do the latter, I know that I am really in love.

Sure, I might still have a crush like the one I have on that Sugar Ray song “Answer The Phone,” or the occasional fling with the likes of the Rapture or Iron & Wine, but I will always return to the bands I love. They are the ones whose albums I will buy as soon as they are released, whom I will do everything I can to see live when they come to town, and whose lyrics and melodies become as much a part of me as the books I read or the conversations I have. Death Cab for Cutie, Pedro the Lion, and Spoon are these bands for me, and I believe that my love for Sufjan Stevens will last to include him in this group as well.

The only other band I feel this way about is a group of former art school students from Charleston, South Carolina who call themselves Jump, Little Children. That is, they used to call themselves that; now, they simply go by Jump. I’m not sure what I think of the name change. The similarity to the Van Halen song doesn’t bother me so much, but I loved the comma. If anything, the shorter name feels a little less quirky to me and a little more forgettable. The first album the band has released under the new name is called Between the Dim & the Dark, and I can’t help but like it. It is a little less quirky than their previous releases, but it’s not forgettable.

Since Magazine , their third album, Jump (as I will begrudgingly refer to them) songs have been the grandest sorts of pop songs. They cascade on, never seeming like mere verse/chorus/verse constructions (not that there is anything at all wrong with songs constructed in such a way), even though they often are. Each part of each song dynamically ups the ante set by the part before it. Instead of cycling back on themselves, Jump songs build from start to finish. What starts as the gentle flow of a river before it comes to the cliff’s edge seamlessly falls from that edge and gains momentum, until it crashes beautifully against the rocks at the bottom. Between the Dim & the Dark continues in this vein, evoking images of huge architecture and landscapes where the sky is always changing colors. As evidenced by the title track and songs like “Midnight” and “Daylight,” Between the Dim & the Dark also keeps Jump’s painter-like interest in the interplay between light and dark alive.

This album is different than Jump’s previous efforts in a couple of ways. It is definitely their shortest, or at least it feels like it. This is a result of the band’s clearly focused studio efforts, creating their most cohesive album to date. I think it actually might be their most cohesive work, but this is to the slight detriment of the songs on an individual level. While the songs here do not sprawl in the occasionally negative ways that the songs on Vertigo (their previous album and my favorite of theirs) sprawled, they also do not breathe in the same ways. My complaint is one of production: some of these songs sound, however slightly, held back. It is, admittedly, a small complaint.

There are other, minor problems I have with Between the Dim & the Dark. I don’t care much for “Young America,” the first single. I don’t understand placing “Midnight” and “Daylight” together at the end of the album. Wouldn’t it have been more effective to start the album with one and end with the other, depending on what they wanted to leave the listener with? But I think these quibbles miss the point, which is that I love Jump (, Little Children: R.I.P.). Maybe, like James Baldwin did with America, I only insist on the right to criticize Jump because I love them so much. Once I’ve vented my objections, though, I am ready to admit that Between the Dim & the Dark is an excellent collection of some of Jump’s best pop songs and almost certainly my second favorite album of theirs. They may have changed a little bit, but that doesn’t change the fact that I love them.