Sophomore, economics and mathematics major
March is an unsettling time of year. On the brink of spring, people tend to get restless. The days get longer, and the promise of coming warmth drives us to the outdoors to make up for the cold winter months. Time seems to move faster. Released earlier this year, Jackson Hyde’s debut solo album Innocence is a timely record for the season when life spreads its wings again.
A large part of the appeal of his music is Hyde’s straightforward vocal delivery, which cuts through and rises above the blooming haze of the guitar and keyboard. Coupled with his direct lyrics, it serves as a point of clarity in an otherwise warped and fuzzy soundscape. Hyde’s musical style is a nod to the groovy psychedelic rock of the 1960s and ‘70s that has found a new home in a recent cohort of new-wave hippies. Small wobbling flourishes and substantial layers of reverberating guitars form the album’s melted psych-rock overtones. On the standout track “Bloated,” Hyde builds from a simple, groovy guitar line into a lush, rich jam, complete with layers of synths and interesting guitars. He is deftly even-handed, though, and as a result the record does not feel washed out. Taken together, the musical and vocal delivery is refreshingly unself-conscious.
Owing as it does to a psych-rock aesthetic, Hyde’s music still manages to forge its own unique path. His guitar is so satisfyingly understated. Nothing feels rushed as the songs take their time to breathe and leave room to develop as they should. The final track “Little Boy” starts as a spare vocal-guitar ballad and builds momentum into a full-on warm-weather groove. Hyde demonstrates that you don’t need to shred endlessly to produce good music—a few humming chords and vibrating notes will do. This, combined with a pleasantly unhurried tempo, lends a laidback feel to the music. It’s slacker psychedelic, reminiscent of the best aspects of ‘90s alternative with a light glaze of ‘60s groovy jam. This is especially apparent on the simple yet sublimely skewed “I’ll Always Be With You.” Through his warped lens, Hyde translates the world into a droopy, almost languid daydream taking place in a garden in full spring bloom.
Notably, Hyde previously played guitar for psych-bedroom-pop virtuoso Trevor Powers’ Youth Lagoon project. Once the association is made, it becomes clear that he absorbed all the best sounds from his time there. Nonetheless, Hyde does not depend on this to create his own endearing and inventive style. His website describes his music as “soft grunge,” and although this may well be a tongue-in-cheek joke about labeling music, the oxymoron suits the sound well. In turn, the album holds its own in a season where the world would do well to take a step back and relish the slow burn of spring.