As I sit here with the sun shining on my face, sipping my peppermint tea, Jeremy Bass’ latest release, The Greatest Fire, gently caresses my ears. The well-orchestrated indie-pop/ alternative masterpiece is comprised of many moving parts. Each track contains a unique combination of the guitar, bass, percussion, brilliant background vocals, and an occasional appearance from instruments suited for a symphony. The album mellows out as it goes along–each song moving further away from its indie-pop beginnings.
The album starts off on a very chipper note. Both “CA, Plz” and “The Greatest Fire” feel very happy-go-lucky, in the best kind of way. “CA, Plz” begins with delightful acoustic guitar plucking, paired with soothing male background vocals “bababa”ing us into the album. Jeremy Bass’ voice soon enters in and the ode to a state (California) lifts off with synth sounds drifting us into the “ocean blue”. Female background vocals also provide support in the chorus and transition us into the next track.
The album’s first single, “The Greatest Fire,” echoes the chipperness of the first track with the great addition of keys layered into the guitar/percussion combination. The message of the track also seems very optimistic, yet grounded. The lyric, “Don’t you ever feel there’s a truth deeper than your point of view?” shows off that mixture well.
Unlike what the title of the next track may lead you to think, “(So Glad) Everyone’s Happy” is seeping with irony, as the repeated lyric “so glad everyone’s happy” seems more sardonic than authentic. Instead, the lyrics “I’m not ready to go” and “Breathe, breathe, breathe” seem to get at the heart of the track. Unlike the other songs, the bass guitar leads us through a playful arrangement of percussion, a beachy guitar, and Jeremy Bass’ steady vocals filling out the track.
“1,000 Yrs” and “‘Till the Summer Ends” both contain softer sets of instrumentation. “1,000 Yrs” is the cutesie love song on the album, with lyrics like “I wanna be here for a 1,000 years with you”. The violin-heavy instrumentation ensures the track’s romantic sound. Meanwhile “‘Till the Summer Ends” shows off Bass’ talented acoustic guitar playing. In general, this track’s sound is softer than the previous ones. Similar to Fleet Foxes, the soothing background vocals and instrumentation take the listener drift to a peaceful place.
“Halfway Sane”, “Trees for the Forest”, and “(theme music for a desert lightning storm)” continue to steer away from the chipper indie-pop sound that kickstarted the album. “Halfway Sane” does this through a certain edginess in its arrangement, with the help of a heavy use of the electric guitar. “(theme music for a desert lightning storm)” is the only instrumental track off the album. The acoustic guitar serves as its anchor, as percussive elements enter and exit as they please. The cyclical sound of the track seems to echo the pattern of a lightning storm, as the title suggests. And before you know it, the storm has passed and the track is over. “We Will Be You” brings the album to an eerie close, as it begins with a slowly played banjo, progresses with an organ, and ends with creaking wood floor sounds.
Before I close out my review of this masterful album, I must draw attention to the creative way Bass titled his tracks. From “CA, Plz” to “1,000 Yrs” and “(theme music for a desert lightning storm)”, his use of parentheses and text-speech are brilliant. The Greatest Fire is an album created for those of us who are tired of the same old indie-pop productions playing over and over again.–Krisann Janowitz