Good music is made of joyful sad contradictions
Picture this: you are part of an assembled audience in a warm and intimate setting, enjoying an endless supply of craft beer while being entertained by a band of three extremely hot guys. They are singing and playing against a scenic backdrop made of the most impressive assortment of guitars mounted on the wall.
The lead singer’s soulful voice releases effortless melodies, accompanied by up-tempo sounds of guitars and drums under a spectacular lighting arrangement. I was fortunate enough to enjoy this experience last month when I attended the launch of Cape Town based afro pop rock band, Stone Jets’ latest EP, What I Say at Cape Town’s much loved musical outlet, The Music Experience.
Given Nkanyane (Bass and Vocals), Manfred Klose (Guitar and Vocals) and their drummer, Jeanre Leo performed all the songs from their seven-track collection, co-produced, engineered and mixed by Sunset Recording’s Jürgen von Wechmar and mastered by Rogan Kelsey of Kelsey Mastering. This EP is the band’s second offering and is testament to their potential to become one of South Africa’s distinguished acts.
While the music is dance-inducing, it leads you down a trail of thoughts and nostalgia as the lyrics evoke memories of your past romantic encounters. Music that you can dance to and take something from is, in my books, good music. A listen to ‘Something Good’, which might have been strategically placed as the opening track is a good example of what I mean. Nkanyane sings about the troubles of a romance that is heading to its unfortunate conclusion while the involved parties are hopelessly holding on to its fading remains: “We had something good/We had something nice/I’m right you’re wrong/this crazy war goes on and on/We keep on fighting all alone.”
The lyrics are achingly sad and laced with regret, but you can’t help but tap your feet or even move your hips to the electrifying bass guitar and thumping drums. This is what I call a joyful sad contradiction. It carries on to the second track, ‘What I Say,’ which happens to be the title of their album. The upbeat music gives the song a feel-good element and the rhymes within the lyrics make it sound like a happy sing-along song. However, with lines like “Open up the door to what might have been” and “There was nothing between us, I just never wanted to see you cry,” it soon becomes clear that this is a song of deception and a failed relationship. Still, you can’t help but dance.
Fortunately or unfortunately, this EP is not just joyful sad contradictions throughout. ‘Feeling good’, though with a deceiving title, is actually a sad song that sounds like a sad song. “Feeling good was only five years back.” That’s definitely not something to be happy about.
The song has all the makings of a sad love song; a slow ballad with heartbreaking lyrics of a man pleading for a second chance from his estranged lover. Mellow acoustic touches dominate the background while subtle drumbeats add a somber effect to Nkanyane’s pleas.
On ‘Take A Look At Me,’ Stone Jets suddenly introduce an extra instrument, which brings a pleasantly surprising feel to the EP. Composer and pianist, Melissa van der Spuy’s piano playing skills blend in well with the boys’ acoustic, bass and drums.
With soft acoustic guitar sounds and Nkanyane’s entrancing vocals, ‘Telegraph’ reveals an even more vulnerable side of the Stone Jets. The rest of the collection carries what seems to be the band’s signature; indie-kwela guitar lines, prominent drumming and dance inducing rhythms
Having witnessed their live performance and religiously listening to this EP every night, Stone Jets is the kind of band whose work doesn’t just end at being excellent on record, but makes for an equally beautiful stage enactment.