The third album from Nottingham, UK-based artist Ricky Jamaraz is a 14-track pop-rock giant, filled to the brim with singles that could put Ricky on the Map and make him an A-lister in no time. But catchiness and commercial success are not all there is to this album. I had the pleasure of listening to the album “you me us them” before its release, and here’s my full opinion on it:
The first track “you ruined my plans” sounds like a mix of all the genres from the 2000s. High tenor vocals with catchy chorusesbwill remind you of bands like Bastille, but the instrumentation is too stellar for this to be a bubblegum-pop record. I was surprised that a song with clean guitars and a simple structure had such a nice and impactful guitar solo. The verse melodies were supported by a string section too, which I found to be impressive considering most of the songs were just written and recorded by Ricky with his guitars in his bedroom. The second track “supercrush” is another pop-ish song that’s supported by a super cool bassline and a swift guitar progression. Its atmosphere, especially the vocal adlibs and the solo section, gives it a dancy quality. The third track, “CDs! NOODLES!”, is two and a half minutes of instrumental guitar and synth work, which once again gives the vibes of a 2000s coming-of-age movie or an indie rom-com that had its score composed by an indie rock musician. “am i arrogant” is indie laced with pop-punk flavours and emo-pop lyrics about low-self esteem and a troubled relationship. Ricky once again flaunts his guitar skills here with a melodic solo that sounds amazing- the whole cutting-edge polished production for that matter. The fifth track “everything makes sense!” begins with a cool bassline and a jazzy brass section, followed by some ska-punk style rimshots. You can’t unsee the variety of influences this dude has, as well as the range of skills which makes him able to compose with a multitude of instruments and effects. The key change in the last chorus shows how impeccable his vocal control is as well. The following track “catch your feeling” has some elements that remind me of Arctic Monkeys, take the reverb and delay on the vocals for instance, but the best element about it was the powerful jiggly bass and the solid drumbeat that added some variety to the record. “lanterns on the lake” is what frank Sinatra songs would sound like if they were written by The Beatles. It’s a nostalgic 50s-style ballad, but the guitars are more prominent than ever. The way Ricky’s vocals sway made me envision this song as a perfect choice for a slow dance with my future wife at a gala or a wedding. The guitar effects used on the solo are charming and romantic in their own way which made me want to fall in love all over again. The eighth track “field song” is the longest track on the album, clocking it at 5:40. It starts off as a piano ballad, and then a warm acoustic guitar shortly joins. I can already imagine a small intimate concert venue with lighters and flashlights lit for this song. The synth and percussion slowly build up after the chorus which reminded me of Coldplay’s older albums. What I didn’t expect on this track was the acoustic solo, which was cut short by just a softly sung portion and the piano. Whoever Ricky wrote this record for must be one hell of a lucky person since that’s the level of creativity and passion his songs carry for them.
The following song “I pinch myself (to check that I’m not dreaming)” picks up the pace and once again has that characteristic pop-rock sound that the album is full of. The lyrics department is awesome, as expected from Ricky, and the keyboard line is prominent during the chorus making it more memorable. The second verse was sung in a way that mimics rapping, which was another surprise to me. This song would go unnoticed in an RnB playlist if it weren’t for the thunderous drumbeat. The following track “i can wait” brought some more pop-punk elements, and I thought since we’re nearing the album some elements must be repeating and nothing new could possibly be revealed. To my surprise, the 11th track “read between the lines” had a slightly different vocal style that was focused on a lower and more breathy and chesty sounding register. The bass and synth sound much different from previous tracks too. It’s as slow as reggae and reggae-fusion, but as positive and happy sounding as ska-punk. It seems like the album’s surprises are far from done. Track number 12 “i don’t love myself” has some of the same narratives and lyrical themes as track 2 “am i arrogant”, but the sound is more on the pop side. With clean guitars, electronic percussion that sounds like a marimba, and one of the album’s catchiest choruses, this song reminded me a lot of Lebanese-born France-based artist Mika. The second-to-last track, “dead flowers”, begins with mature-sounding low-pitched vocals and a clean guitar melody accompanied by the piano. It has the perfect buildup with its electronic percussion and the piano being in the foreground of the song. Although the buildup was nice, I couldn’t help but feel the record had many stronger tracks than this and shouldn’t have been 5 minutes long. The fourteenth and final track, “operation peanut butter”, begins with a Spanish guitar and the sound of a crackling campfire. With the softest vocal lines Ricky has sung on the whole record and some layered vocal harmonies that sent shivers down my spine. This is a laid-back song that you’d play to soothe your anxiety on a rough day. The name of the song suggests that the lyrics have a very specific meaning to Ricky, but the emotional delivery and the guitar solos carry a universal and ethereal feeling of melancholy which made me enjoy the song (more than I already was). This one didn’t feel like 5 minutes at all, because it had no dull moments. The ending parts will surprise you with Ricky belting at the top of his lungs, in chest voice, which was the last surprise this album had for me. As the song was fading out I felt like I didn’t want it to end.
To sum it all up, this is a record full of similarities and influences but doesn’t fail to bring new stuff along to its listeners. The fact that Ricky Jamaraz wrote and recorded this all by himself in his bedroom is legendary on its own. My only concern was that it’s 2 or 3 tracks longer than it should have been, as some tracks did not bring anything new to the table. Music-wise this can be compared to old Coldplay, Mika, and while this may sound strange to some, it also reminds me of the iconic Jordanian singer Aziz Maraka. The latter of these is known for masterfully mixing elements of pop-rock with Jazz in his compositions, and a similar body of work can be found here. As for Ricky’s voice, it will most definitely appeal to fans of Lewis Capaldi, Sam Smith and anyone who likes vocally-capable tenors with a bunch of tricks up their sleeve.