Even in today’s era of downloading individual songs, I still somehow obsess over the fine art of album sequencing. A recent example of its effectiveness can be found on Wilco’s latest, where the Chicago band pairs the insane ending of “Bull Black Nova” with the immediate acoustic relief of “You and I.” It’s like the two Excedrin that you down after the quick onset of a headache has taken over your body and thoughts—there is still rage, but you know the end is near. Singer-songwriter Jason Karaban’s newest project, a three-song EP titled Mayfly, is a lot like those two Excedrin—it comforts and kills the pain of the past with a perfect and promising dose of simplicity.
You could argue that sequencing isn’t an issue when you’re only dealing with three songs; I’ll argue that Karaban could have ruined the trio of tunes by throwing them on an album with eight or ten more. So maybe it’s not just sequencing that excites me; maybe it’s the general promise of the way a family of songs can sound when they are grouped together because of an artist’s vision.
The starkness of the three piano-based songs on Mayfly is as beautiful as it is sobering. The tunes could have easily been morphed into one lengthy cut, but again, Karaban knows the curse of pushing the envelope too far with one idea.
“I think if it was any longer or different,” he says by phone, “it would have become redundant, or almost boring. Like, I might as well have included razor blades with the EP.”
Although not a political Steve Earle- or Neil Young-like statement, Mayfly does invoke images of battle (“For whatever reason, I started getting all this imagery of fallen soldiers,” Karaban says). It’s a concept EP that doesn’t scream “Impeach him!;” rather, it whispers its delicate messages with a cool nod, like the clever way you spell out W-A-L-K in a dog’s presence to announce your plans without causing premature excitement.
“The thought of political undertones did go through my mind,” Karaban explains. “The thing about it—I tried to write it in a way that wasn’t overly specific, but to where it still had a universal message that was relevant today. Just something that fit into the context of what is happening now, what’s always happened, and what’s probably going to continue to happen.”
And I imagine that’s the kind of artist Karaban is always going to be: creative, but not overbearing; clear, but not calculated; simple, but not common. A storyteller who always knows when and where his story ends.
He said it: