They have a name that sounds like a mid ‘70s’ Burt Reynolds private eye flick, but the new Nashville duo, Smoke and Jackal have nothing of that denim and polyester decade about them.
The twosome of Nick Brown and Jared Followill (Mona and Kings of Leon respectively) also eschew their day job bands in favour of mellow and semi-spaced out songs that follow flowing tempos and hint at techno inspiration.
The band is a side project but their music is relaxed and buzzy with an intelligent approach to arrangement.
Brown and Followill are going for ambiance and they use instruments sparingly while giving reverb a big part to play. Tracks like Roadside pour out like a portal from a big echo chamber with chiming guitar, a singer and a single microphone.
The musicians are singer (Brown) and bassist (Followill) of their other groups so those strengths are the main starting points here.
Brown gives some notable performances (OK OK and Save Face) that demonstrate a futuristic approach to vocal texture and sparse phrasing.
His economy is matched by Followill’s moody lines and ringing chord patterns.
Smoke and Jackal seem to focus on some dreamy spot in the landscape where melody, and simplicity linger without much ado.
Their EP is an interesting, original and probably welcome side project/alternative to the main bands.
— Dean Gordon-Smith is a Vernon-based musician and freelance music reviewer whose column, Street Sounds, runs in The Morning Star every Friday.