The other week we talked to James Vernon about his upcoming album Criminals, and today we bring you an exclusive stream of the full-length available September 9. Known for his work in the band Li Xi, formerly of The Cliftons, Sleeptalks, The Unicorn Ducks, and more—very little introductory words, adjectives, and catchalls can describe the solo outing adventure that awaits your ears in an album that first began in winter of 2013 and arrives in time for the autumn solstice of 2014.
Criminals sets out on a Bay Area-steeped journey like a drifter roaming from one township community to the next. Vernon snubs the pigeonhole comforts and conceits of stylistic confinement, and begins the adventure with the electric head-hunting buzzer, “Skull”, that leads down the path to the welcomed haunting of “Old Ghost” that James described to us recently as; “I remember writing it late at night and it was very cold outside. There’s a sort of night/day cold/warm feeling to the song.” The lo-fi cycling through interiors displayed in exterior views turns over and over with relaxing, and contemplative woodwinds met by piano-dotted rhythms on, “Turning Inside And Out”. The hum of instruments that resounds like natural presences on “Coyote Hills” transports the listener on their own audio tour through the watery lowlands of the East Bay Regional Park District. James Vernon’s versatility of composition and arrangement can be heard on the decidedly more electro leaning, “The Actor”, that features Jasiel Berg on vocals that masquerades through the pursuits of truths, consequences, and higher states of consciousness.
And while some of James songs are cinema for the ear and mind to enjoy, the plugged-in understated industrial, motorik ambient instrumental of “Piers” brings you to the wooden boardwalk water vistas of the Bay. More rich locales appear, as “Niles Canyon” takes you on a sun-splashed tape wobbling trip through the Alameda Creek, and the local heritage railway that runs between Fremont and Sunol. Yesterday’s psych strangeness meets the modern age of power chord progressions with a Rhodes lead, slight swelling effects of guitars and swinging sounds of the ’60s channeled to life like a séance. That thematic blend of tomorrow, yesterday, to today turns, and turns, like non-linear arrangement of seasons, like the afternoon delight of “Rainier Themes” that brings a batch of blissful moments tantamount to enjoying a carton of organic Rainier cherries to one’s self. Finally, Mr. Vernon leaves you with the outro, “Mirabeau”, a droning scope of sound that sails through a tonal scale of pitch balances that flicker and then slowly fades into the mysterious, foggy sunset.
James Vernon’s Criminals will be available September 9 via Bandcamp.