ALBUM REVIEW: Puma Blue – In Praise Of Shadows (Blue Flowers)
You need to know about Puma Blue. Period.
Puma Blue, who also goes by Jacob Allen, is a 25-year-old jazz musician that makes some fucking magic tunes. I first stumbled across Allen after falling down a YouTube rabbit hole. He appeared on a channel called ‘COLORS’ (a fantastic YouTube channel for new music. I highly recommend you have a gander.) His music is a type of lo-fidelity jazz, not too dissimilar from King Krule. To describe his vocal delivery, I would say it’s soft and pretty, yet melancholy, sounding as if it has been recorded in a smoky room at 3am. The debut album is named after an essay on Japanese aesthetics written by Jun’ichirō Tanizaki in 1933. Allen’s latest project is a more refined exploration of music, fueled by Insomnia and Love. Top and bottom of it is that he’s written a blinder of an album.
Starting on the subject of insomnia, a theme that recurs throughout the entire album, ’Sheets’ is essentially a love song.’ ‘So Awake have I been for years, that I forgot to rest. Now I lie gently, dead on her breast.’ The song as a whole sounds like a modern lullaby. Focusing on the music, There is a gentle guitar riff that sounds like it’s been sampled from an over-played record. This is accompanied by soothing orchestral swells, garnished with reverb drenched vocals. Nothing to dislike.
‘Velvet Leaves’ is a captivating tune from the first rotation. A crisp drumbeat, washed-out backing vocals and delicate guitar tones to soothe your soul. The tune then arrives at the bridge and proceeds to turn into a full jam before ending in spectacular fashion. On the second rotation and after listening to the lyrics more intently, it’ll sound like there is a darker meaning behind the tune. On a post from instagram Allen says, ‘I wrote this song very quickly one day last year, but it took much longer to process what I was trying to say. 5 years ago, my sister was in a really bad place and one day we nearly lost her. By the grace of the universe she survived and now words can’t communicate how proud of the strong, beautiful, wise woman that she is. This song is just a reflection on this day, how much I love her, and about how we came together as a family.’ Overall this song is a special one. It provides the listener with contrasting emotions. It’s a beautiful song about hope and the beauty of how the family pulled together through a hard time. On the other hand it reminds you how dark life can get and of the vileness it throws at you.
‘Is It Because’ begins with a very Bon Iver-esque intro. Spaced out guitar with vocals in both your left and right ears that sing to you ever so softly. You might find yourself drifting into a daydream when listening. Perhaps you where thinking about your next pint in the pub, but just as you’re imagining taking the fucking biggest possible swig of that ice cold amber nectar, the beat kicks in and pulls you back round to the dark reality I call lockdown 3. This moment reflects the maturity of Puma Blue. He’s able to create a sound, and then completely take that sound in a direction you wouldn’t have thought of as Allen takes you along for the journey.
‘Already falling’ sounds like an ode to a sunny day. Perhaps you’re in the pub again? Drifting off to the sweet sounds of the twinkly guitar and soft vocals, then suddenly the bass rattles your table, nearly knocking over your can of red stripe and waking you up. Lyrically, the song was written about the intoxication of falling in love with someone. Allen explains, “You want to fall down the rabbit hole with them forever, but you’re also trying not to get too ahead of yourself. There’s a realization that it’s too late for that, but it’s okay to give into those feelings when you trust yourself.” The tune as a whole sounds happier, with more warm feeling to it than the rest of his music. Its nice to hear the diversity of emotions portrayed throughout the album.
I believe this album is a special one. I have become completely infatuated in the sonic world of Puma Blue. The lo-fi production techniques and tsunami sized orchestral swells, underpinned by the delicate chord progressions that make up that main body of his tunes. Listening to ‘In Praise Of Shadows’ Is a journey. To live in this farcical life is to experience the worst times as well as the best times. Right, just hear me out for a minute. We may not be in the pub, we may not be seeing our loved ones, we may not be going any-where for a fucking while, but if there is anything you can do to help ease this, I highly recommend whacking this album on. Allow yourself to be seduced by Allen’s soft vocals and let him take you somewhere you maybe haven’t visited before.