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Jesse Krakow - Oceans in the Sun

-tree for me
-can't stop thinking
-good warm friends
-make it say hello
-bacon grapefruit
-implemation of the fire groove
-fantasy feather
-take me down to the river tonight
-missed a boogie
-camel donkey cry
-internet dating experience
-circa never
-forgets how to fly
-all that you know is more than what you are
-it's saturday afternoon
-person with a hand
-factoid man
-i respect u
-guy you know
-done with hyphens
-power feeling
-only you can have friends
-remember the good times
-the 1st grader
-gotsa groove
-want to make fun
-factory of coolness
-least high
-deserve something better
-oceans in the sun
-faces of fun

Art/Design by Max Maslansky

(Disagreement 10/2004) How much Jesse Krakow is too much Jesse Krakow?, is the title of a news update Jesse Krakow himself sent to the webpage of Epicene Soundsystems. Apart from being bass player with math jazz rockers Time Of Orchids, who just signed to John Zorn's Tzadik label, he's also playing with Gary Lucas in a Captain Beefheart cover band and with Ron Anderson's PAK. Furthermore he's involved with some other bands, and also just released his debut solo album on the small Nebraskan Public Eyesore CD-R label. The cover artwork is a cute aquarelle painting of leafless trees, animals and rainbow colors, preparing adequately for what you get inside: 31 songs in less than 42 minutes, without this being either brutal grind / crust / whatever core or experimental masturbation. Instead we get a conceptual prog rock album for children and pets, which Krakow penned for his cat Gidget. And people who write albums for their cats can't be bad people. Krakow sees himself inspired by Zappa, Shaggs, Ween, B-52's, Residents and Half Japanese. Not only that all of these artists amount to true genius, but this also gives you already an idea of what to expect: ultra-short songs, coming straight from the heart to the 4-track recorder. Krakow has been doing all the recordings himself, and while keyboards and drum computers are predominant, there's also the occasional burst of guitar and bass. My first impression was Residents meet They Might Be Giants, combining the former's weirdness with the latter's take on fantastic melodies. Where "normal" artists, once they found a cool melody, they to straight it out into something accessible and then stretch it out to three or four minutes, Krakow seems to stay with the original idea and leaves it at that, thus overwhelming the listener with an true onslaught of little unfinished pop diamonds. Like I said, other artists could have filled three albums with all the material you get here, but Krakow leaves it at this astonishing lo-fi piece of art. Where Half Japanese is sometimes overly artful an hard to access, Oceans In The Sun is just perfect! Songs like Good Warm Friends, Missed A Boogie, Want To Make Fun and the title track are perfect pop songs, and even the few experimental tracks could have been found hidden on Guided By Voices albums, while the instrumentals show off Krakow's skill as a musician. If you are used to hi-fi dolby surround recordings, then this absolutely lo-fi 4-track take on music may scare you off. Oceans In The Sun doesn't need to hide behind a polished production, it's the music that counts here, and it's not too often that you will come around such an accomplished pop album. A true must-buy for lo-fi aficionados. - Pascal

(Indieville 1/3/2004) Oceans in the Sun is garnering late consideration for this year's best of 2004. No other album this year has entertained and amused me as much as this one - and while these songs may be kooky and mostly short (31 tracks in 42 minutes), they're surprisingly listenable and often quite melodic. The overall impression I get here is something like Ween and The Frogs (especially in the lo-fi sense) crossed with Captain Beefheart and Frank Zappa (in the lyrical and musical craziness.) Jesse Krakow (Time Of Orchids, PAK) is at his zany best on this massive collection of songs. Particularly good are "Good Warm Friends," "Missed a Boogie," "Internet Dating Experience," and the ridiculously catchy "Factory of Coolness." One of this album's greatest assets it its lyrics, as Krakow is the master of terrific one-liners. How can I ever hope to forget friendly zangs such as "high-school is not cool/Don't go to school at least high-school" and "unless you call me on the phone you better call me on the phone"? Perhaps Krakow's most overtly clever moment is the garbled, mock-angsty "Can't Stop Thinking," which comes off as a riotously funny love song rip-off - it is fifty years of lyrical angst condensed into a noisy, lo-fi nugget of tape fuzz and spasmodic guitar. I recommend this to any true lo-fi connoisseur. - Matt Shimmer

(Bettawreckonize 3/13/2005) I admit that I’m a lazy critic. It is much easier for me to formulate the language needed to communicate exactly what I like and dislike about a band or artist if their music is coming from a place that I’m familiar with. Borrowing melodies from The Beatles and The Beach Boys? No problem. Are you in an emo band who spends ever van ride to and from local dates listening to At The Drive In? Chances are I’ll pick up on that, and it is very likely that I’ll be able to bang out a hundred word critique of your full-length in just a few minutes. When an artist like Jesse Krakow (also of Time of Orchids), who is a fuggin’ avant musical weirdo submits his 31-song full-length I really have to work. I have to come up with stuff like, “Good Warm Friends” sounds like Perfect Stranger’s Balki Bartokomous fronting Devo in Bob Pollard’s basement, or “All That What You Know Is What You Are” could easily pass for a special education student performing karaoke to the Monkees hits played backwards. This is all over the map, from the flamenco jams to the rudimentary dance beats to the out-of-tune plodding to the cartoon character voices. For every aural headache, there is a moment of hilarity. For every skronky, backwards melody, there is a half-a-second of clarity. So while I’m not going to even try to pretend I know the slightest thing about where these songs are coming from, and may after 100 listens still never get it, I can say with some certainty that this album is never going to bore me to tears. Oceans in the Sun is the musical equivalent of a low-rent version of the Muppet Show (side note: “Want To Make Fun” is the perfect theme song for such a production) and I’m going to the balcony for a better look. - Tim Anderl

(Empty) Marvellous color cover (the little drawing on the left is in color on the original cover now buy me a color laser printer) on a cardboard envelope: stop mimicking majors and take good example of this, everyone at CDR labels /It’s a pop record and it’s 42 minutes long and 32 tracks like a grindcore one. It’s not exactly pop, actually. It’s a little like Sebadoh kicked in the butt by Victim’s Family. It’s like No Means No gone songwriting on ketamine or Truman’s Water gone Truman’s Water and back again. It’s no-wave without the arty poses and the goth make up. Overall, this record’s just what the cover promises: trees, a rainbow, birds, a monkey, red balloons, and a black cat. And ‘you do not have to say hello’. Or ‘only you can have friends’. Still: ‘I wanna make fun with you’. Incredible lyrics. Such an amount of creativity in such little space probably explains why space around this disc is curve: its density bends reality. It just bent the spoon I used to put sugar in my instant coffee (yuck) a lot better than Yuri Geller tried to some years ago on TV. Do you really understand what you just read? That’s nice; you’re smarter than I am. Buy this and be even smarter. - DDN

(Smother.net 10/2004) You may have already heard of Jesse Krakow as he plays bass in the seminal bizarre ride known as Time of Orchids. First of all, I’d like to thank Jesse for handwriting me a letter—we don’t get thanked all that often and rarely via a handwritten note, so please know that goes appreciated. I wasn’t sure what to expect from him in terms of solo material. But once the last track faded I was as surprised as I was initially. There’s loads of funky bass playing, vocals sung with ironic (I think) lyrics that might convince the mental asylum to prepare a room with padded walls for Jesse, and odd quirky instrumentation. While everything on this album is well just weird, it works in a way that many wouldn’t be able to. “Good Warm Friends” sounds like a collaboration between Tom Green and Les Claypool. This album is key. - J-Sin

(Aiding & Abetting no. 257) Loopy, angular pop ditties. Cheap Trick meets Half Japanese and then smokes a PCP-laced joint or ten. Often completely fucked up, but nonetheless goofy enough to always bring a smile. This music is guaranteed to scare your mother. - Jon Worley

(Vital Weekly no. 431) Leaving improvisation areas, we come across one Jesse Krakow, who plays keyboards and sings. Sometimes his lyrics are short ("I respect you" are the complete lyrics of 'I Respect U') and sometimes much longer, but Jesse plays still no less than thirty-one tracks in just over forty minutes. Very lo-fi recorded, this is man and his groovebox is surely fun for a while, but I'm not sure if I would spin this very often. But maybe those who also digged Casiotone For The Painfully Alone, will find good competition here. - Frans de Waard

(Ampersand Etcetera 7/2005) 31 tracks in 41 minutes, the shortest 8 seconds and the longest almost 4 minutes: Krakow sits in that strange category of lo-fi twisted pop, guitar beatbox percussion and electronics, deceptively simple and naïve but clever enough to put together compelling mini-melodies with amusing and childlike lyrics (which are printed on an insert) shifting past you like a off-centre radio program. Artists like Ween, They Might Be Giants from the mainstream or Fair and Willett from a previous Public Eyesore review set come to mind. Krakow varies his vocals which adds to the variety. This is a fun release that bops along: at times, though, there are glimpses of the strength Krakow could have if he perhaps spent more time selecting and polishing. But then that is obviously not his aesthetic! And anyway, I enjoyed it. - Jeremy Keens

(Dead Angel 7/2005) Is there such a musical category as "naif pop" now? If there wasn't before, there is now. Krakow is one guy with a keyboard, guitar, and some gadgets in his bedroom making simple but catchy lo-fi pop tunes about friends, girls, internet dating, first graders, and similar obsessions. The sound of these short but surprisingly catchy tunes is somewhere between Daniel Johnston and Jad Fair, although Krakow's attitude is generally far sunnier than Johnston's and more recognizable as actual music than Fair's. With 31 songs on the disc, things keep moving right along, covering a lot of stylistic ground that keeps coming back to the kind of groove-laden synth-pop that went out of style about two decades ago. Bizarre but amusing, often even fun, and delivered in a highly quirky and individual style. Some of this reminds me of the first Flaming Fire album, if that means anything. It'll be interesting to see where he goes from here. - RKF

(Komakino 07/25/2005)Try to focus on a point where the genius melts coordinates of The Residents with Jad Fair and Frank Zappa, and somehow probably You'll find there Jesse Krakow and then You are able understand how it's possible to have an album of about 42 minutes with 31 tracks.. songs from 8 seconds to not more than 4 minutes. Eclectical no-wave, crazy, rudimentary experimental lo-fi and diy excerpts. And He's a great funky bass player too. - I mean, i cannot swear i'll play this album very often, but that doesn't change it's brilliant and chaotical genuine, - it's the melody of weirdness. - Paolo Miceli

(Mundane Sounds) Okay, straight up--this record is simply amazing. I have no information to give you on Mr. Krakow. He's kind of mysterious, but like all enigmas, it's a fun kind of mystery. His debut CD Oceans in the Sun is a blast of pure fun pop. Thirty one songs in 42 minutes, and almost every one of them is a winner. That's even more amazing. And unlike other weird experimental artists who put two or three dozen minute-long songs on a record, almost every one of Krakow's compositions is a hummable ditty that's easy on the ears and is otherwise quite brilliant. (I can't send you to a website for you to learn anything more about this mystery man, but if you want to start somewhere, click here.) But back to this brilliant record, shall we? Thirty-one pop gems, set to fun Casio-styled numbers and other lo-fi recordings, all sung in Krakow's wonderfully grunge-like voice. Seriously. Think of Daniel Johnston or Wesley Willis songs sung by Anthony Kiedis or John Frusciante or Layne Staley or Chris Cornell. Yeah. Really, people. That's what I like about this. Krakow can sing, has a great voice, and he shows it off by singing songs that are nothing more than lines like "I respect you!" and "Wish me luck, person with a hand!" and "High School is not cool/Don't go to school, at least high school." Yes, those songs are brilliant. The record only has five songs that suck, and the reason they suck is because they're instrumentals. THIS IS ALL ABOUT THE GENIUS LYRICS, my friend! You wouldn't have instrumental passages on a Sinatra or Jeff Buckley record, would you? NO HECK NO. But there are twenty six songs with genius words about things like friends and dating via the internet and trees and school and soul and love and life and fire, and they're all fun and funny and brilliant and genius and you just can't turn away. And these songs...they're not lo-fi, they're not hi-fi, they're not indie-pop..they're something completely different. They're Krakow-pop. Jesse-pop. Something outside the limits of what you know. This is what music should be about, and Jesse Krakow is a total genius in that regard. You seriously need to seek this record now. And check out the tracks below. You MUST do that. You simply MUST. Because you need some happy smile time. And because I know what I'm talking about. - Mister Joseph

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