Following a previous Velvet Fields feature in the Abstract issue, Jackson Vincent returns with his debut EP, Foxtrot. Foxtrot features a total of 5 songs imbued with themes of loneliness, acceptance, and growth. Jackson Vincent has always used music as his medium of confession. He does this by effortlessly expressing his most intimate thoughts and feelings while composing almost autobiographical content.
Upon the first listen you can instantly recognize some of Jackson Vincent’s influences: Bon Iver, Shakey Graves, and Elliott Smith. Throughout the entirety of the EP there are elements that I would say have become Jackson Vincent signatures, such as layered vocals, mellow percussion, and guitar, for rhythm and leads. The record’s individuality stands out in a pop climate centered around entirely electronic or cookie-cutter song templates. There’s an inarguable sense of originality within Jackson Vincent’s work that feels as distinguishable as his fingerprint.
Sitting at about 15 minutes total, Foxtrot easily transports listeners to a state of mind that can be described as foggy, haunted, and melancholic. It’s easy to envision a dreary house on the top of a hill, creaking with the wind, grey skies looming while you walk on wet asphalt in a pair of dirty, muddied up converse. This is no small feat when similar artists of today struggle to create stories with their work yet it seems to manifest effortlessly within this EP. Following this paragraph are brief reviews of each track off of Foxtrot with my favorite lyrics and aspects honorably mentioned.
Foxtrot: A reintroduction to Jackson Vincent’s sound, vocal layering, simple yet memorable melodies, and guitar. The intro guitar groove stimulates a bumpy motion that almost makes you feel as though you are ‘trotting’ along to match the namesake. There’s a muddyness with the song drenched in warm guitar tones that feel familiarly haunting. Elements missing in prominent pop music like lead guitar parts, while still gentle, feel invigorating. Vocals are delicate - airy almost, creating an ambience that swells an atmosphere into July humid rain past midnight. The lyrics within Foxtrot tell a progressing story, from the repetitive line of “I’m coming back again,” to the ending sentiment of, “I’m never coming back.” There’s a sense of growth happening within four minutes, almost an entire story, leaving way for the narrative that the rest of the EP will tell.
Running on Empty: The use of guitar, soft kick drums, and tambourine transports the music to easily feel timeless. Imagine an old slightly rusted stereo in your grandfather's garage. Jackson Vincent’s music sounds like it could just as easily play there as it could in your car after a tough day. Lyrically, “Running on Empty” relates to feelings I’m sure every listener can relate to, the interpretation of why, provides major accessibility. Does work ever get too difficult? Is school draining? Do you find yourself with barely any energy to do anything, even the things you love? “Running on Empty” leaves the breadcrumbs of a story open for you to relate to with vivid imagery that grips you. With lines like, “I’ve been going the wrong way but I couldn’t tell, until I saw your headlights but I’m driving still.” and “The sirens wail to no avail. It’s too late, I can’t be saved.” You see the crash take place and hopefully, you can relate to that feeling metaphorically aiding you in your own times of empty. Paired with a finale of a short guitar solo remnant of Kaelo, slight distortion and layered vocals again, “Running on Empty” leaves you hanging off the edge of your seat.
Hit Me: “Hit Me” has a bit of a heavier, more edgy sound. Effects that resemble the influence of some middle eastern instruments with some distortion. If you’ve ever heard the intro to Led Zeppelin’s “In the Evening”, that’s what I’m reminded of. Vocally, another Led Zeppelin song comes to mind, “No Quarter.” A blend of those two with of course Jackson Vincent’s originality collides into the third track off of Foxtrot. When it comes to lyrics, “Hit Me” screams internal monologue, thought processes we’ve all had. A sort of repetitive thought that feels like you can shake it off by telling yourself ‘I don’t know’ in hopes the thoughts that are bothering you will go away. Almost like talking to a wall, questions and statements getting no response yet, the song continues to hold its ground - “I’m not trying to fight you.” You can only imagine what may have gone down before or after stating no intent to fight. The story continues, and the song finishes with beautifully drawn out guitar bends.
Silver Shoes: One of my favorite tracks off of Foxtrot. Instrumentally emotional, a mixture of electric and acoustic guitar providing space within the song that imitates the feeling of emptiness. Melodically and lyrically, “Silver Shoes” is wistful. “You told me, ‘Don’t you worry I’ll be with you again’ We’ll fall again in love.” emulates strong senses of longing that instantly made me feel nostalgic. It details a sad story of accepting your differences after the fact, reminiscing on the past, while being in the present and dare I say missing someone who is no longer there. “Silver Shoes” ends with cute, little harp-esque sounds, that to me, feel like a shy smile accepting what is, what was, and being thankful for memories, even if they’re not the most pleasant.
It Is: Following the order of songs, and feeling like a fitting end, “It Is” closes Foxtrot with the familiar washy feeling that can be found throughout the rest of the EP. Vincent sings about begging a lover to try again and embracing the changes they have encountered together. Vincent’s reverent use of the piano and guitar elements creates a sense of finality, though whether it's a happy ending or not is up to the listener. My favorite lyrics of this song has to be, “Don't be afraid of the way things change, if you can’t escape then learn to embrace,” establishes a gentle end for the listener, summing up the stories and realities the EP covers. Despite the trials and tribulations throughout the journey the listener has taken along with Vincent, there is a resounding confidence emitted from the songwriter to get up and try again.
Somehow Jackson Vincent creates environments that feel cold and damp, yet embrace the listener warmly, providing companionship. While he seems to talk to the void, the void becomes a tunnel, funneling through his work to other hearts that may need to hear what he says. I wouldn’t be surprised that following this EP, with even more refinery in a debut album, that Jackson Vincent becomes a staple of the indie-folk category right alongside Phoebe Bridgers and other artists who ‘make music for ghosts.’