Jack J's previous records - 'Something on Your Mind' and 'Thirstin'' were cult classics. Instantly likable dancefloor smashes that didn't feel the need to bash you over the head or patronise you. They charmed crowds by dint of their subtle, hazy, hook-filled charms, demonstrating both a pitch-perfect pop sensibility and canny obfuscation of it. The records hovered on the edge of mainstream awareness. One could easily have imagined Jack J becoming that rare thing, a credible 'underground' act with the smarts to make an inroad into the wider musical world. It would seem that this isn't what he wanted to happen...
The wave Jack, his partnership with Liam Butler as Pender Street Steppers, and their label Mood Hut has ridden was always a calmer one. Arriving in 2013, entirely fully formed, Mood Hut and the Steppers had that effortless, easygoing vibe down from the get-go. This included doing things at their own pace; as evidenced here. We've had to wait seven years for a new Jack J record but, by gosh, has it been worth it.
'Opening the Door' was created during the 'weirdness' of the last couple of years, and while it has some of Jack's hallmark stoner-house lope, this is a slightly more reflective record than the previous two singles. Taking its cues from AOR, dub, deep blue ambient, and maybe a little Prefab Sprout, this is a deeply satisfying listening experience from start to end.
It's an album with three sets of companion pieces. The most obviously AOR-influenced 'If You Don't Know Why' and 'Only You Know Why,' the latter being the lead single and already a contender for song of the year for me. Then the dubwise 'Opening the Door' and closer 'Closing the Door.' Deep stuff indeed. 'Clues' comes in two segments; first ambient and then vibey Compass Point reggae style.
It's great to see Mood Hut return after a year without releases and even better to welcome Jack J back with this stellar long-player. Keep doing things your way, guys; it's working out just swell.
'Opening the Door' is out now on Mood Hut