Jimmy Montague’s Tomorrow’s Coffee is a Blanket of Cool, Kinetic Pop-Rock

Queens singer-songwriter and Taking Meds bassist James Palko embraces his alter-ego through 10 earworms packed with sensual, time-honored horns, technicolor riffs and a choir of falsettos.

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Jimmy Montague’s Tomorrow’s Coffee is a Blanket of Cool, Kinetic Pop-Rock

Last year, NYC quartet Taking Meds dropped an album called Dial M For Meds and it was a standout measure of primitive, hook-heavy guitar-rock. Tracks like “Life Support” and “Outside” and “Wading Out” were real gorgeous, rewarding and clean mini-celebrations of a four-piece really in-tune with each other. Cut to now, and bassist James Palko has returned to his solo project, Jimmy Montague, for a third go-around. Previous Montague efforts, like Casual Use and The Light of the Afternoon, were standard fits of alt-rock paired with occasional horns and, while those records were good—as they flirted with pop-soul ever-so-briefly—it was only a matter of time before Palko’s alter-ego would finally take the shape he’s so distinctly teased out for five years.

This is where we meet Tomorrow’s Coffee, a blanket of cool that takes Billy Joel progenies and marries them with jazz fusion, yacht rock, power-pop and bedroom lo-fi in really bountiful ways. Jimmy Montague is a project that occupies the same canon as Mo Troper and Diners—artists who’ve aced the catchiness test and, at the end of the day, are the Elephant 6 Collective’s brightest modern-day disciples. Palko, like Troper and like Blue Broderick, can write the hell out of a pop song, and Tomorrow’s Coffee is relentless in its own pursuit of stringing together 10 sticky tracks of the like. Good luck finding a crack in this album.

The festivities kick off with “Tell You That You’re Right” and its Nick Lowe-style, organ-licked opening melody that explodes into a solo breakdown that puts the focus on rhythm and plenty of it. A bassline throbs deliciously, the percussion lends itself to a starring snare and then, beautifully, sensual horns. An echo chamber of vocal harmonies from Jess Hall—not unlike something Lesley Miller, Valerie Simpson and Patti Austin might have sung on Gaucho—envelopes around Palko’s own singing. Doing such a trick lets Palko never over-sing, instead coalescing with the vibe and chugging forward as its chilled-out conductor. As far as opening tracks go, “Tell You That You’re Right” is saccharine, animated and smoldering.

“No New Starts (For Broken Hearts)” has a certain jingle to it that is the antithesis to anthemic projection, as Palko muses on goodbyes and fresh beginnings. “Was writing all my fond farewells to ones I used to kiss and tell,” he sings, “on postcards from the corner store when, if only for a moment, had a thoughtful observation that the other side of the line’s been cut.” The song is sublime, euphoric in its own attempts to collage rockabilly and Broadway whimsy—and the “shoo-bop” melody breakdown near the track’s conclusion will make you feel like you’re one of those crooners singing next to a burning trash can in Rocky. “The Smoke After the Kill” sounds like a cigarette after a meal tastes, adopting right-of-the-dial, ageless and liquid rhythms paired with warm harmonies that sound like mid-century session begats and fine-tuned, peculiar pop re-awakenings. It’s the little things that plug Tomorrow’s Coffee with such grace: tropical guitar strums; featherlight percussion pressure points; Palko’s singing, which sounds like it’s coming from inside a white blazer chest pocket.

The roaring, cosmetic joy of Tomorrow’s Coffee finds a hurricane eye on “All the Same,” which you can attribute to the head-splitting guitar solo provided by Chris Farren—who also hits quite a few high notes on his “When I fall in love, it’s always head over my heels / Ain’t too proud to beg / Ain’t too low to steal / I do what I can to make you feel what I feel” verse, where he nods to well-worn pop language siphoned through a disco-laden recital. “Only One For Me” is guitar-pop on steroids, punctuated by jazzy harmonics and backing vocals that are so soulful they’ll split you in two. Packed with a horn section that never relents and Palko’s jet-setting attitude, the track goes from a ritzy club bop to a heat-seeking missile as soon as a kaleidoscope of guitar chords gets pinned into a solo by Connor Waage. Let me tell it to you straight: Tomorrow’s Coffee is for the shredders.

Palko’s strongest moments, however, enter on the back-half of the record—especially on “Halfway Out the Door,” which is grandiose and vibrant and benevolent in its own hero’s journey to a mass-divinity of musical bliss and romantic aimlessness. “If easy come and easy go, that’s why I’m always lost,” he sings. “‘Cuz I’m sittin’ ‘round and wondering, baby, if love is worth the cost.” The song features a parade of Turnstiles-esque piano tempos and a ballooning trombone solo from Eric Stilwell and a sun-soaked balm of organs. There’s a current of bittersweet melancholy that coats the vibe of Tomorrow’s Coffee—yet Palko never lets the mood do anything but charm. On “Waiting For You,” he ditches the three-feet-thick brass layering for a vivid splash of singalong falsetto, Andrew Dominello’s Hammond B3 and an aching bassline. And then, as a Jimmy Montague song is wont to do, a vintage, technicolor guitar riff cuts through the gentle singer-songwriterness of it all.

The end-credits of Tomorrow’s Coffee begin to crawl on “No Exit,” which is so entrenched in soft-rock pastorals that you might forget you’re listening to an album released in 2024. But that’s not a bad thing. Palko’s work as Jimmy Montague is a mark of formalism unwound, and “No Exit” is anodyne in its kinetic, revelatory devotion to refurbishing abandoned rock detritus. When the 1:30 mark hits on the track, a tenor saxophone solo from Matt Knoedel uncoils while a chooglin’ guitar flourishes delicately in the background. It’s the best musical moment of the year thus far. Tomorrow’s Coffee altogether is mellow gold that greatly contradicts the milieu of Taking Meds. The album embraces its woozy, post-counterculture forefathers without lampooning them, and the platitudes of an era five decades old are attacked by Palko with a flawless, time-honored dash of earnestness until they sound modern again. Tomorrow’s Coffee is a set of earworms built to linger. Now, how about that?

Matt Mitchell reports as Paste‘s music editor from their home in Columbus, Ohio.

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