Pop is a curious thing these days. With the genre going in so many diverse directions - attempting to pay homage to any style that defined it in eras prior - I feel that the style of music that many considered traditional “pop” from the 90’s and early 2000’s is becoming a bit harder to find. Although it seems to be in hiding from the public eye, one of the most poignant examples of modern day pop reared it’s head in Denver for fans this past weekend. Uplifting piano, well matched harmonies, uptempo songs, and a voice that carries a vibrato vaguely reminiscent of Queen, Jukebox The Ghost showcases quintessential pop characteristics in every way. This D.C. based trio seems small in stature, but they've done a great job of building a diehard fan base in their 10+years, and proved that with a sold-out show at the Larimer Lounge on Friday night.
Opening the show was a much younger band, but one with an equally serious a fan base. The group is Twin Forks, an Americana-folk-pop septet fronted by Chris Carrabba of Dashboard Confessional and Further Seems Forever fame. Founded in 2011, Denver got their first taste of the group last May when they opened for Augustana at the Bluebird Theatre. The group has already seen some touring success, hitting the road with Phillip Phillips, Counting Crows, Ivan & Alyosha and multiple festival dates across the US. Although the group is still young, their first record, fittingly titled LP, showcases Carrabba’s signature writing style paired with catchy, upbeat, banjo-driven tracks. The band has grown quite a bit since I first saw them in 2012 at SXSW, but I’m anxious to watch the group’s live show continue to progress. Playing a cover of “Blister In The Sun” as well as an array of tracks off their LP like “Back to You”, “Scraping Up The Pieces”, “Kiss Me Darling”, and “Can’t Be Broken”, the music doesn’t translate quite as one would hope from recording to their stage show. The two times I’ve seen them, their live show has solidified a bit more each time, but I feel like there’s still room for more growth from this project.
I must admit that when I walked into the Larimer Lounge on Friday and found the venue that crowded, I was sure that a large part of it was Chris Carrabba. His other musical efforts have built such die-hard fan bases over the years, it seemed a certain answer to the lack of space in the room. But even after Twin Forks left stage and Carrabba disappeared from the merch stand, the crowd stayed, unwavering in their excitement. I owe Jukebox The Ghost a sincere apology for doubting the size of their fan base here in Denver, but how was I to know? The last time this band hit Denver was in 2012 when they were on tour opening for Motion City Soundtrack. I’d found their performance at that show quite fun, but I haven’t heard much from this band since then…I wasn’t sure what to expect from them in a headlining setting. Sure enough, as the band hit the stage, a majority of the room was singing along within seconds, and it stayed that way for the rest of the night. The musical abilities of this group are just as impressive as the sound they produce. Sticking strictly to a piano, a synth, a guitar, and drums, the group’s sound fills out quite nicely for their size. One of the most distinct features of this group is their lead singers - yes, plural. Pianist Ben Thornewill and Guitarist Tom Siegel trade duties of lead vocals from song to song, adding a unique dimension to both their performance and their music. Thornewill’s voice is a beautiful mashup of proper and trained meets pop, mimicking the control of Paolo Nutini while sounding more similar to Tom Chaplin of Keane. Siegel, on the other hand, has a soft, well-annunciated voice with a warm and open tone, incredibly welcoming to the listener. These two together produce seamless harmonies that create a fabulously unique sound, highlighted on tracks like “Sound of A Broken Heart”, and “Long Way Home”.
Although the group played an array of tracks from their older albums, their focus was primarily on their new material, their self-titled album which was released last October. Fan favorites obviously come from records like their 2012 release Safe Travels and their 2010 release Everything Under The Sun, but it felt very apparent to me that the band has found their groove musically with the new album. A perfect mix of tracks featuring vocals from both Ben and Tom, a mix of upbeat tracks and more introspective, down-tempo songs, and diverse lyrical content, the album feels whole; slightly more complete than their work in the past. I really hope to see this band back in Denver quicker than another 2 year wait, and it’s apparent that their fans share my sentiments based on the raucous applause and call for encore at the end of the night. Pop and I may have a curious relationship with one another, but the music made by Jukebox is a brand of pop I can get behind. Their new album, Jukebox The Ghost is available to stream on Spotify, or purchase on iTunes. If you’ve been looking for a new kinda pop that’s a little less “doo-wop”, and a little more “ooh-oh”, this band is just the right thing for you.