To illustrate personality through melodicism amidst a complete absence of lyrics is difficult to say the least, but when listening to songs like “Our Little Secret,” “King Zealot,” or “Swept Away” from Chris Goslow’s spellbinding Jaguar Love Letter, one isn’t inclined to think as much. Goslow’s dexterous delivery of brooding piano melodies throughout the whole of this sixteen-song tracklist is compelling to put it mildly, and even without verses to shape a narrative, he tells plenty of tales inside of this material. His performance wit is what lends definition to this album, which isn’t something I can say for all of his peers.
There’s a bold tonal presence to the piano in “Childhood Memories” and “Koala Bear Shimmy” that immediately brings us into the mood of the beat, and it’s only through the crisp presentation of the keys that we’re able to embrace these compositions as much as we are. This isn’t to discount the accessibility of the content in Jaguar Love Letter so much as it’s meant to acknowledge the level of sophistication behind his songcraft. To say he isn’t issuing simplistic statements with this music wouldn’t be doing it justice; he’s utilizing grandeur, but in a way that eliminates pomp and negative excess.
I love the use of tempo to craft something bittersweet in “Life’s Greatest Mysteries,” “Sparkle Magical,” “If I Only Knew Then What I Know Now,” and “Strange Beauty,” and I think it’s all the more telling of how multilayered a performer and composer Goslow really is. He has every opportunity in the world to take a couple of shortcuts through the duration of Jaguar Love Letter, but he resists in the name of giving us something just a bit more elaborate and emotionally charged than the status quo calls for, which on its own is worthy of some accolades.
It would be really interesting to hear “Fool’s Paradise,” “Mom’s Reading Chair,” and the title cut from Jaguar Love Letter live sometime, mostly to hear how Goslow would broach performing them on stage.
These are some of the most flexibly arranged tracks on the LP, and were he to give them a nudge in any particular aesthetical direction, I think he would be able to turn these songs into on-stage experiments that could garner the praise of everyone from piano aficionados to the casual listener who merely enjoys a good melody when they hear one.
A well-rounded introduction to his skills as a pianist and sonic expressionist, Chris Goslow’s Jaguar Love Letter isn’t an instrumental LP that novice music lovers should be intimidated by in the least, but instead a listen that I think most who like vibe-driven compositions should find more than acceptable this spring. Goslow flexes plenty of muscle under the spotlight here, but virtuosity is not the order of the day – with his performances in this album, he demonstrates as much of a capacity for commentary as he does reflection, which isn’t all that easy to do without uttering a single lyric.