Folk singer-songwriter Jack Symes has a knack for taking the commonplace and imbuing it with significance. He discovers meaning in fragments of life most people overlook and gives those splinters of time relevance.
On his sophomore album, Tompkins Park, Jack exposes the surprising complexity of topics such as high school proms, cult figures, the middle states of the U.S., called flyover states because few people go there, moving to Brooklyn to pursue the object of his affection, and reflecting on his life while seated atop his parents’ house.
Whereas his debut album, Songs For Moms, probed into his private thoughts, Tompkins Park shifts perspective and delves into the seemingly random and contradictory moments of the episodes of daily occurrences and just how they accumulate and shape who we become as individuals.
Comprising 12-tracks, the album appropriately begins with the title track, opening on a softly strummed acoustic guitar backed by regular waves of colour. Jack’s distinctive, slightly nasal voice infuses the lyrics with nostalgic flavours.
Entry points include “I Need to Be Alone,” with its suffusions of inhaling and exhaling surfaces. Gently eddying guitar savours give the tune a dreamy, tropical flow as Jack sits on a roof, mulling over the narrative of his life.
“Why, Why Not” travels on a country-lite melody, accented by gleaming, dripping guitar hues, while Jack’s twangy tones inject the lyrics with poignant tenderness. For some reason, “What A Wonderful Party” conjures ups memories of The Beatles, trembling on an eccentric rhythmic pulse topped by Jack’s evocative, teasing timbres, along with the burping, drawling bray of brass.
“Prom Song” is reminiscent of Johnny Rivers, rolling out on creamy, undulating layers of sound rife with ‘60s textures. Gracious and elegant, there’s a quivering allure to this song, providing a warm mood, taking listeners back to the enveloping thrill of prom.
The final track revisits “Why, Why Not,” offering a gorgeous, stripped-down version of the tune. Even though the harmonic intensity is diluted, the acoustic edition cultivates an exquisite charm, at once irresistible and touching.
More than a collection of mere music, Tompkins Park assumes the ineffable quality of a spiritual hymnal, presenting beautifully wrought sonic psalms.