ALBUM REVIEW: Stolen Jars – ‘I Won’t Let Me Down’

Artwork for Stolen Jars’ ‘I Won’t Let Me Down’

A lot of people will no doubt underestimate Stolen Jars. Hell, a lot of people probably won’t even acknowledge they exist. That’s simply how things go in this corner of the indie world, where an act will snag some residual Pitchfork-vetted momentum if they’re lucky, but will otherwise end up preaching to the choir. And for Stolen Jars especially, that’s a real shame, because there’s something really excellent here. Even back to their self-titled album from 2011, they make the kind of pop music that’s well aware of its own humanity, and keeps drawing a listener further and further in because of it. Even when that sort of ethos in vulnerability is the DIY scene’s placard of choice, something about Stolen Jars finds it resonate that critical bit more.

So obviously, I Won’t Let Me Down is a good album. Just based on previous evidence, there was very little doubt of that, barring a particularly wild and unmitigated shift. Thankfully, that hasn’t happened; if anything, Stolen Jars have not only doubled down on practically every musical aspect that’s made them since the beginning, but also refined them. In a sense then, this is probably Stolen Jars’ most definitive release to date. It’s also their best, by a margin founded on just how much they’re able to make work, while remaining so unfalteringly listenable.

Because there’s a fair amount that they orbit around here—some of the hipster-friendly stylings of Vampire Weekend or Fleet Foxes; the hushed, poised pop of Oh Wonder; the alt-country smatterings that often wriggle their way among emo and DIY indie-rock. It’s all sewn together by Stolen Jars’ command of subtlety and downplaying, and a sense that quiet lushness is the utmost priority. Opener Reality TV sets that stage well with its softly-softly guitar tapping and woody emo exterior, and the sense that Cody Fitzgerald’s quivering voice represent the expressive-to-a-fault territory that’s being aimed for. Sarah Coffey is the standout vocalist of the two, however, in a put-together breathiness on Adeline or Smoke In The House that’s simply more appealing in approach. In truth though, they both compliment each other and the sound as a whole exquisitely, and feeding them into the cushions of vocal harmonies on the likes of Somewhere Else yields a really emotive and rich result, in how individual timbres and layers pop out.

As far as further arrangement goes, there are really no complaints to be had on I Won’t Let Me Down. Stolen Jars are evidently gifted when it comes to a deft threading of mood, to balance generally sparse or understated arrangements with the cosiness of the writing and delivery therein. It makes for an interesting dichotomy between how warm-hearted the intentions are and a distinct chill in the production. You’ll get moments like the cracking edges of percussion on Austin or the oscillating bass on Won’t Stay Gone Forever that even brushes against the fainted hints of drill, as a means of exposing some rough edges or deliberate DIY imperfections. But Stolen Jars know how to bring it all back together in the end; it’s why the windswept guitar rustle of In The Bad Times feels as hopeful as it does, or why Somewhere Else is at its most natural when the initial thrum and throb of synth eases into gorgeous ‘80s pop powered by an indie heart.

The details are where this album shines the most, and there’s a lot of them. Rarely are Stolen Jars that direct in their musical DNA; brush even slightly past the surface, and the neat weaving is just waiting to be traced and admired. And when it all comes together in a way that’s always accessible—and always nestled deeply among pop stylistically, at that—that’s the sign of something pretty special here. It’s also the sort of album that really excels in replayability, again thanks to the attention to craft and handiwork that Stolen Jars have embraced. Though, even just in terms of sound and gorgeous clarity throughout, this isn’t one you’ll wanting to be putting away in a hurry.

For fans of: Fleet Foxes, Oh Wonder, Grouplove

‘I Won’t Let Me Down’ by Stolen Jars is released on 4th August.

Words by Luke Nuttall

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