A decade has passed since the Jigsaw Seen’s last full-length album of original material, the Grammy-nominated Zenith. Since then, the band has released a number of singles, EPs, and a covers album, but Bananas Foster is the first proper follow-up. Anytime a band takes that long to release an album, it had better be ambitious and it had better be good. In this case, it is both.
The LP has a vintage sound more at home in the 60’s than in an era of Pro Tools and auto-tune. The same art pop sound is present, with the guitar-based tracks making heavy use of mandolin, glockenspiel bells and the like. At times brilliant and at other times perplexing, Bananas Foster is never dull. Songwriter Dennis Davidson weaves imaginative tales of depression, mistaken identity, puppetry and fruit.
“David Hart’s Name of Song” is acoustic jangle pop about the puppeteer from The Junior Christian Science Bible Lesson Program. “Each time I gaze at you I find another smile,” he croons in “You Look Like a Lot of People.” In an ironic twist, Davidson describes a state of ennui in “Where the Action Isn’t,” the loudest, most energetic track on the album. The Jigsaw Seen play the garage rock so well in that song, with its furious drumming and dirty guitars, that I almost wish the entire album sounded like that.
The Jigsaw Seen’s ambitions are greater than perfecting one style of music, though. Fluttering organ fills the closing ballad, “Jubilee,” and “Choreography Killed the Cat” is propelled by blazing slide guitars and an infectious drum loop. One of the best tracks, “Bertha Brilliance,” relies on classic rock riffing and start-stop dynamics punctuated by aggressive drum fills.
With a flair for the dramatic and a penchant for experimentation, Bananas Foster is the perfect successor to Zenith. Multifaceted and clever without ever being pretentious, it is an album you can believe took ten years to create