‘Reflecting on the past, and looking ahead to the future, a wondrous sense of relatability pours into your ears.’
Intro to The Jonah Medal
Previously touring and releasing music with his hometown band La Rocca, Wicklow based singer-songwriter Bjorn Baillie releases his debut single under the moniker The Jonah Medal. Reflecting what he considers to be a metaphor for middle age, new release Septembering (out now) takes inspiration from things that have happened in life, the people that are now family, and the responsibilities that those relationships have. Doing so in such a naturally musical way – which is aided in part by the main melody that Bjorn expresses as ‘being one of the simplest I’ve ever written’ – it’s a track that combines meaningful lyricism and instrumental content in an honest, and completely unforced way.
As if a nod to the early moments of life, the opening to this debut from The Jonah Medal carries a sense of heartfelt intimacy. Finger picked, and recorded in a way that enables us to hear every nuance within these arpeggiated motifs, it’s like you are in the studio with Bjorn. You’re watching his hands shift position, and you’re struck by the effortless, entirely natural way in which the fragments flow. Most certainly folk-tinted, it sends calm inside us and inducing nostalgia as it does so, it’s a beautiful way to begin.
Bringing the essence of the release to the fore, with the emergence of lyricism those hints of reflection become much more literal. Projected with warmth, the phrase ‘I remember everything that we’ve done’, puts us right in the heart of the story. Looking back is the focus. Comparisons with now swiftly follow too. But rather than it being melancholic, it appears honest and without any air of self-indulgence. And there is very good reason for this as while it is a track steeped in self-reflection, the knack Bjorn has for lyricism makes it feel totally relatable.
Moving through, while space plays a key role the sense of musical enhancement to the personal journey being told brings everything together. Changing direction at a time you wouldn’t expect, that former intimacy transforms into a sound that carries a comforting momentum. Blues tinged piano breaks through in a manner you may expect at a chorus. Drums infused with syncopated high-hat bring real joy. Equally, in it coinciding with references to having ‘no maps or detailed instruction’, there is, perhaps ironically, true purpose and direction.
Continually expanding on the message of the track, as further lyricism greets us we find ourselves becoming part of the story. Lines such as ‘Even if you’ve never lost, it’s on the way’, carry connection stronger than you would expect the soft delivery to allow. Then you are provided with the most gentle of wake-up calls via ‘The older need you, the younger teach you.’ Feeling so true, it’s like you realise what life is all about. Strange really how we all move along our own path but actually that’s one thing we all have in common.
Turning to be instrumentally centred, following the second version of earlier line ‘And when the sun sets…’ the sensations experienced to this point take on a truly timeless atmosphere. Highlighting not just the strengths within this track, but Bjorn’s approach, you realise that what you’re hearing could have been written at any point. Now, many years ago, or even in the future. Interweaving with each other, piano and guitar motifs work delicately against the rhythmical elements making it feel like a classic track. Likewise, in it being uncluttered by overstated showmanship or effects, it sounds like a proper piece of songwriting that’s much missing in new music.
Taking this a stage further, with the aforementioned musicality bringing a smile to your face we begin to shift from looking back to looking ahead. Now taking on its third form, the lyricism of ‘I hope the sun sets well on all we do’, feels wonderfully progressive rather than reflective. Meanwhile, with the piano melodies having completed their dance around the acoustic guitar, the harmonic shifts become solidified in a way that sees them settle in your head just as gently as the vocals. Much like what is to follow, it’s actually rather special.
Building on the inferred hopefulness that’s been growing through the track, as we move through the latter parts a gorgeously triumphant atmosphere appears. Bursting into life, a sonic sense of togetherness pours into your ears. Texturally, it’s an absolute delight and infused with a mix of stabs, fall-offs, a fanfare-tinted melodic content, an expanse of brass beautifully enhances the established harmonies. This alone would make for wondrous enjoyment as the track closes. However, in it being combined with recurring message-filled vocals, and exploratory instrumental passages, a finale that stunningly depicts childhood freedom and life-centred enjoyment still to come emerges.