Jack R. Reilly's 'Middle Everything' is a standout debut record
For many artists that I love there is a breakout album, an album that brings them to my attention, that defines their sound in that moment and an album that leaves me wanting more, driving me to dig through back catalogues and EPs to get my fill. For me Middle Everything by Jack R. Reilly is an album that does all that and more.
The build to this album has been a slow one since the 2018 release of Pursuing Balance, Jack’s first release after building a band for the live set, with four singles releasing throughout the course of 2019 and 2020. But then, on his birthday of all days, Jack gave his fans a gift, the debut album Middle Everything, made up of ten tracks including the four spectacular singles (Who Can Say, I Don’t Like To See Us Like This, Where You Find Yourself, Old Guard) and reworkings of songs from previous releases (Newland Street and Title Dictates Behaviour).
For fans of Jack this album is the culmination of the hard work and refining of his music that has been happening over the last few years, the subtle changes in sound, the full band arrangement and the beautifully executed production work from Jono Tooke (Cry Club). The album is produced beautifully in a truly artistic way that serves the music, doing so much work to express the full range of emotions as presented in the songs bringing the artistic vision of Jack into focus. As expected from Jack lyrically the album is beautiful, uplifting and devastating at times, touching on themes like self-worth, relationships, self-image, the artistic journey and growth with each song feeling like a real expression of the singer’s inner thoughts and feelings.
It’s hard to pick a song that is my favourite lyrically, being familiar with a lot of the songs from previous releases and seeing Jack play live but I was pleasantly surprised (not really) when I heard one of the new songs Some Days, an insular exploration of how things change overtime, delivered in a haunting reflective way that made me lean into the distorted guitars and subtle but perfect rhythm sections before the dramatic and emotional instrumental crescendo to close the song out.
Some days I don’t remember you
Some days I can’t picture your face
Some days I just see through
Some days I don’t remember you
Some days I do
The players on this release are all killers in their own right, Marcus Tamp (Amends) on drums, Em Duncan (a spectacular solo artist in her own right) on keys and vocals and Lauren Aspite (Columbus, Max Quinn) on bass and vocals. Altogether, this collection of some of Sydney’s finest (and nicest) musicians alongside Jono’s production have led to what I think it the closest culmination to Jack’s artistic vision possible. I know Jack has had ideas for this album for a few years now (going back the nearly 5 years that I’ve known him at least) and I for one am blown away with the clarity of expression and artistic focus displayed here. Even down to a relatively minor (to some) factor like sequencing, this album guides you through a range of emotions, each song making sense in context (while standing strong as a song in their own right) and showing the full dynamic and emotional range from the songs shifting in an effortless, comfortable way from the anthemic, huge I don’t like to see us like this, through
the visceral and provoking, Blood (go check out the NIDA video) to the heartbreaking and raw Old Guard I found myself surprised, but in the best way listening to the album in sequence in full which I highly recommend for any listeners checking out the release.
This album is special to me as someone who has been a fan of Jack for some time, but I also think it is a perfect place for new listeners to get a taste of the work as it shows the full range of the artist and highlights the incredible song writing, storytelling, arrangement and musicianship of the artist and band. I hope that if you have never heard of Jack R. Reilly that you go and spend time with this record, that you love what you hear and that not only do you go through the incredible back catalogue (available on streaming services and on Bandcamp) but I hope that like me, after listening to Middle Everything you find yourself wanting more and eagerly waiting to see what Jack does next.