Music by Jack O’ the Clock has a way of crawling into your subconscious, curling up, and nesting for a few months at a time. Over the last 15 or so years, the band has developed a melancholy tunefulness that combines wistful vocals and a rather striking amalgam of chamber music, rock, and folk. Lyrically, they often go dark, exploring the twisted underside of modern Americana.
No Outlet (Volume 2: 2014-2018) is a collection of outtakes and otherwise unreleased material that did not make any of their albums in the form presented here. This lineup of the group is centered on the core of Damon Waitkus (vocals, guitars, hammer dulcimer, keyboards, piano) Emily Packard (violin, viola), Kate McLoughlin (bassoon, vocals), Jason Hoopes (bass, vocals), and Jordan Glenn (drums, percussion).
Despite the presence of two short songs, as well as a Duran Duran cover (one that works much better as weird rock that one might think), Jack O’ the Clock provides its expected level of sophistication, combining acoustic and electric instrumentation with deceptively complex yet listenable harmonies. The centerpiece of the album, however, is an extended cut of Miracle Car Wash, 1978, which adds about four minutes to the version from Repetitions of the Old City – II. Once again, the piece offers a beautifully orchestrated instrumental interlude, with contrapuntal lines sandwiched between lyrics that explore a disturbing slice of adolescence.
No Outlet (Volume 2: 2014-2018) is compelling not just for its musical prowess, but its ability to subtlety poke at your hidden emotions. For those reasons, this release is not only for long-time fans but also for anyone who is looking for something different. Highly recommended.
Proceeds from this album go to food banks in the Bay Area and Vermont. With many in need this year, don’t hesitate to grab a copy sooner rather than later.