The Long and Short of It - Quickly, Quickly

Quickly, Quickly - 20 year-old Graham Jonson - always had an edge over his lo-fi beat maker contemporaries. With nods to Madlib and J Dilla in his beats, and luscious Kenny Barron-esque chord voicings, his 2017 Quickly Quickly, Vol.1  release remains one of the finest instrumental albums of the 2010s. Learning the piano as a toddler and self-releasing music by the age of 16, Jonson began to flex his muscles in  corners of the internet and it became abundantly clear to anyone that stumbled upon his work on Soundcloud that he’s an incredibly gifted musician and producer. SoundCloud beat makers either thought they were him or simply wanted to be him. Titled The Long and Short of It, the Portland based artist’s latest venture marks a clear development from his previous days of lo-fi beats. With his talent, this seemed inevitable, yet that doesn’t make it any less impressive.

 Jonson goes in head first with album opener ‘Phases.’ Almost six minutes long and moving smoothly between styles whilst managing to sound frenetic simultaneously, ‘Phases’ features a spoken word poem by activist Shariff Simmons before drummer Micah Hummel enters, building rhythm upon rhythm with Latin percussion. As a devout student of Madlib, Dilla and Flying Lotus, Jonson’s penchant for groove shines throughout The Long and Short of It. The most obvious distinction between Jonson’s previous work and this new record is the prominence of his own lead vocals. In a confessional manner, the opening lyrics are ‘I’ve been away too long, too much shit goin’ on.’ Minutes later, the latter half of ‘Phases’ breaks into an enticing hypnotic instrumental, Hummel leading the way on drums whilst Jonson breezes between jabbing at his keys and pulling luscious jazz chords out of thin air. Doubling lead guitar lines, long crescendos and a cathartic sax solo by Haily Naiswanger, this is Quickly, Quickly at his most ambitious yet. 

On ‘Come Visit Me,’ Jonson writes autobiographically of his struggle to adjust after a move to Los Angeles. Jonson’s vulnerability throughout the album is candid, musing on desire, disappointment, anxiety and apathy. ‘Shee,’ written on his girlfriend’s guitar, is a cross section of Jonson’s numerous influences, merging a slacker indie rock guitar with a Dilla-esque beat and sweet harmonies. Vocally, Jonson is solid and reserved, it’s often conversational and friendly. His warm falsetto, particularly on ‘Shee,’ is not to be snubbed at. 

‘Everything is Different (To Me)’ is a highlight, as is the first single of the record, ‘Feel,’ a bossa nova driven track, with layer upon layer of guitars and synths fluctuating as Jonson sings:

 ‘all my senses going crazy / maybe I’m dying maybe I’m breaking… what is this colour that I’m seeing / what is this feeling that I’m feeling / could it be love could it be healing / so freeing…’ 

 Of course, as Jonson undertakes such an ambitious project at still a relatively young age, the album has its flaws. The track ‘Wy’ is somewhat muddy and ‘Otto’s Dance’ feels more like an interlude than an album closer. Though the aforementioned ‘Phases’ is a fantastic track, it feels as if the track should have snapped to a close to suit the frenetic energy of the sax solo. Instead, Jonson allows it to somewhat disappear, quietly meandering and then blending into the second track. Whilst this is always a nice touch, Jonson deploys this trick a number of times throughout the record. In this particular example, it feels forced.

 Despite this, Quickly, Quickly excels on The Long and Short of It and continues to prove himself as both a mature and versatile artist. His production remains intelligent and moving and by offering lyrics, The Long and Short of It provides an opportunity to learn more about the artist.  This transition was inevitable and it is impressive that Jonson has made the change with such a charming and relatable record. Above all, The Long and Short of It is ambitious. By his own assessment, aged 20, Quickly, Quickly is only now getting serious. If that’s so, there is so much to look forward to.  

 The Long And Short Of It is out now via Ghostly.

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