Let us make no bones about it; Jake Simmons & the Little Ghosts love rock n’ roll.
This record is informed by the relatively short history of that loudest and most raucous of American musics, and it is not ashamed. On the contrary, the love that this band has for these sounds is down right unabashed. The performances on Shake So Easy – the group’s third full-length – are as a rule tight and lean, while the arrangements are concise without lacking depth. The boys are playing loud, and you just know they are having fun. The grooves are deep, the hooks are sharp, and once they are in they do not come out.
From a songwriting perspective, Jake delivers passages that vary in obfuscation, balancing between a pool of metaphors and a river of truisms while dipping his toe in each. His voice goes from high and sweet to a weather-worn growl that can only be described as Real. He sings about hardship in the Midwest in a way that makes the uninitiated understand, while sparking the expatriated to remember.
The pacing of Shake So Easy is interesting. Overall it moves well enough, save for the back-to-back monoliths of No One Can Sleep and Black Wind in the center of the album. This pair of longer, slower tunes can seem a bit unpassable if you’re in a certain mood, but for those that push beyond there are moments of sweetness and serenity to be found – most notably on Movies, though there the title track offers some short reprieve as well.
Overall, this music is a genuine, well-executed example of what it means to be alive right now in Michigan. These songs are the band’s finest works to date, and presented as they are make up one of my favorite albums of 2018.