You have probably heard music from Jim Noir, you just didn’t know it.
His songs linger on the peripheral vision of pop culture – caught on an advertisement, or a television episode, or even a video game. His pop is bright, lithe, and gone only too quickly beneath the regular media smear. Currently, Jim Noir is a ghost, and his work deserves a concentrated séance.
Jim Noir’s real name is Alan Roberts, a Brit who’s recorded much of his work at his parents’ home in Manchester. He makes pop, but to be clear this is a pop so smart and with such strong roots in 60s and 70s pop, psychedelia, and travelogues, that it’s impossible to brush off as mere background noise. It’s even more incredible when you realize that all of the instrumentation, vocals, and songwriting are his own.
With his album Tower of Love distortion warms the vocals on such playful songs as “I Me You I’m Your” and “A Quiet Man.” In fact play is something that comes to mind repeatedly upon listening to the album; 70s-era organs intermingle with folksong vocals, tambourines snap with funky guitar riffs, and sounds of nature build up to harmonies that draw a smile as you sing along. This is unsurprising. Recurring themes among his work include nostalgia, childhood, and approaching love – and the self – with a sense of humor. “Turbulent Weather” is a song about the difficulty of assuaging a moody partner in a precarious relationship, and recommends purchasing an umbrella to ward off the incoming thunderstorms of arguments – a remedy that only wishful thinking could provide. At the end of the song there is a moment where the music recedes to vocals and guitar, which skillfully evoke falling rain and mesmerize with a folksy lull found decades ago.
His self-titled album revisits this nostalgic blend of yesteryear and play – particularly in the song “Good Old Vinyl,” where the singer laments his broken CDs and the increasing pace of technology with a skeptical eye on its actual capability. In his world, the contemporary is firmly embedded in the world of the past, both thematically and aurally. “Happy Day Today” evokes childhood with its pure enthusiasm and fun, quick organ and vocals, which are in a higher range than Jim Noir typically sings in. Despite the references inherent within the music to childhood, it’s a song about the excitement of falling in love, and the contrast is compelling.
His latest EP Zooper Dooper features some more of these gems. “Car” offers his particularly self-effacing humor salted with 60s distortion and quick rhythms, and is an ultimately winning piece. There is even an example of one of his instrumental songs (“Kitty Cat”), which creates an evocative saturated funk reminiscent of a smoky 70s bar.
Jim Noir is a pop artist well worth discovering. Childlike but never childish, playful but never overplayed, these songs are warm moments in any kind of turbulent weather.