Jukebox the Ghost: Safe Travels

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Jukebox the Ghost: <i>Safe Travels</i>

With Safe Travels, Jukebox the Ghost has learned to let go completely. The New York-by-way-of-Philly trio has made a modest name for itself out of catchy, clever, girl-on-the-mind pop, but omnipresent pressure and tight control of their craft has poked some holes in their first two angsty, insightful albums. So they changed addresses, shifted focus and voila!—a third record founded on liberty, melody and fraternity. While previous releases proved their potential, the addictive ambition of Safe Travels issues mainstream radio a call to action: We dare you not to play this.

The timing here is fantastic. Maybe even poptastic: Just in time for summer sun, Safe Travels is all wandering verses, passionate pleas and legitimately happy percussion. Unafraid of jaunty piano and unleashed from traditional guitar rock, the guys betray a truly unexpected, if expertly selected, series of influences: From Billy Joel territory (“At Last”), they treat listeners to Death Cab For Cutie (“Dead”), Keane (“Adulthood”) and Ben Folds (“Everybody Knows”) alongside a strange and falsetto-friendly blend of the Darkness and Weezer (“Somebody”). It’s like they made a statement of being young, and it’s clear they enjoyed doing so.

Throughout the 13 songs (and as many aesthetics) of Safe Travels, the guys prove significantly smoother than their band name, if occasionally academic. Flexing no shortage of crafty songwriting, they make sad sound positively upbeat: “Oh, Emily, you’re a funny girl / I didn’t mean to break your heart.” These are lessons learned in maturity and embraced with flexibility, the point of “Oh, Emily” being sure, our break-up is ugly, but not as ugly as if we’d chugged on through it.

And to prove their elasticity, they also make sad sound absolutely devastating: “What if there’s always been a tiny hole inside my heart leaking very, very, very, very slowly? / And if you’re dead, how do you know you’re dead?” With its slow sweep of cymbals, “Dead” stretches and expands, channeling god and self across four minutes of atmosphere to become the album’s strongest salute to youth. Yeah, it hurts. It hurts a lot. But sometimes it hurts really nice.

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