Artist Review: Jalen N’Gonda

‘You don’t know it yet, but you definitely need Jalen’s music in your life.’

Intro to Jalen:
Based in Liverpool, singer-songwriter Jalen N’Gonda pulls on musical influences which as wide-ranging as the distance between the UK and his hometown of Maryland, USA. Taking inspiration from the jazz, soul and rock and roll music of past decades, he creates a sound which transports you back in time while seeming to be as up to the minute as can be. Read on to discover why you definitely need Jalen’s music in your life.

Featured Track 1: Holler
In a musical world where regularity would seem to be king, Jalen’s first single ‘Holler’ (released in 2016) is a welcome change from the monotony of most music released in recent times. Setting off with a  slow bluesy-rock style introduction in compound time, we are immediately taken away from what we may expect from new artists. Shortly after this, Jalen’s soothing, soulful vocal enters for the first time and with its beautifully silky, smooth tone, you can’t fail to notice the level of musicality.

As the track progresses, melodic and accompanying themes quickly emerge giving it a real sense of style. Additionally, alternation between the accompaniment being stripped back and being more full on against the vocal gives the track depth. However, while in the main these ideas work really well, particularly when Jalen’s voice is given a chance to grow, the rising guitar chord pattern gives a slightly disjointed feel in places.

This said, there are some wonderfully musical touches and in particular the second half of the track gives us a real sense of what could be on the horizon. Cleverly combining jazz influenced guitar interludes and soft vocal harmonies with a completely false ending, the track becomes a strong, yet understated debut.

Featured Track 2: Why I Try
In stark contrast and with more than a hint of a 50s and 60s vibe, ‘Why I Try,’ takes us away from the atmosphere of ‘Holler’ to a highly focused track with fantastic musicality from the outset. Infectious from the start, a combination of bass guitar and drum kit guides us to the opening lyrics and the introduction of a palm-muted guitar groove. While there is certainly a much greater sense of drive to the track, it still feels relaxed and with half-time post-chorus link sections it never becomes too hectic.

However, while the tempo is very much in the middle ground, the musicality is most definitely not and as the track develops, it becomes a showcase of just how far Jalen has progressed since his debut. Containing clever changes of mood and unexpected uses of triplet cross-rhythms, it sounds very much like it belongs in a different era, and for that reason alone, it’s brilliant.

Featured Track 3: I Need You
As a continuation of this more full-on style, Jalen’s most recent release, ‘I Need You,’ is the perfect demonstration of the promise shown in his debut. Setting out with a driving drum pattern and an echoing guitar chord sequence, the introduction guides us full throttle to Jalen’s opening lyrics. Joined by a double-time drum pattern, the sense of urgency felt in the opening increases further allowing life to burst out of every note.

However while it could easily sound rushed, the track sits comfortably in the bracket of energetic and not chaotic. Equally, Jalen’s vocal takes off in a controlled manner and seamlessly transforms from a soothing tone into a James Brown-equse one. There is doubt about it, Jalen may need you, but you need Jalen’s music in your life even more.

All tracks reviewed are available on iTunes and you can follow Jalen on Twitter by clicking here.

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