For his follow-up to 2013’s impressive debut album, Dream, Ayron Jones turned to legends of the local Seattle scene. Mixed by Jack Endino (Soundgarden, Nirvana) and produced by Barrett Martin (Screaming Trees, Mad Season), Audio Paint Job builds upon the eclectic mastery of Dream while adding a bit more raw intensity.
Jones’s music is a unique blend of seemingly incompatible styles, with strong influences running the gamut from grunge to garage rock to blues to hip hop. Jones’s singing voice is similarly diverse, displaying an R&B singer’s smooth vibrato, a blues man’s soul, and a hard rock ferocity. Such eclecticism does not make for an uneven album of odd juxtapositions and unnatural stylistic transitions, though. Instead Jones and company manage to mold the diverse styles into a sound uniquely their own. Because the diverse influences are melded together so well, shifts from song to song and even within a single song seem like a natural progression rather than forced diversity.
Album opener “Take Me Away” demonstrates this well. The song opens with a muted blues rock riff that transitions into head-banging grunge power chords overlaid with a screaming lead guitar lick, Jones’s guitar alternating between the subtle rhythmic riff and raw power. The two mixed styles help the song about loneliness transcend the expected sad tone, with Jones instead seeming angry that he feels this way. “The day my junkie mom abandoned me was the day I learned to lie,” Jones sings, his voice half-croon and half-snarl. “She kissed my face and said she’d be right back before she walked away and cried.”
Songs like “Emily” and protest anthem “Stand Up (Take Your Power Back)” show Jones at his blues rock best, with a slick riffing that recalls Gary Clark, Jr. or the Tedeschi Trucks Band. “It’s Over When It’s Over” and “Play Me a Song” show the band’s softer side, with Jones’s soulful crooning gliding over a soft acoustic guitar. The latter is one of Audio Paint Job’s finest tracks, with Jones’s smooth voice harmonizing with his 12-string fingerpicking. “Nobody knows your pain,” he sings at various points in the song, using the song to empathize with those who are hurting.
Audio Paint Job is at its most interesting when Jones and company bring together two seemingly juxtaposed musical styles. Musically, “Lay Your Body Down,” with its loud distorted guitars, Kai Van De Pitte’s propulsive drums, and Jones’s raspy scream, sounds like a blueprint of the Seattle alternative scene during the grunge explosion. However, during the verses Jones’s voice sounds more like an R&B crooner. “Mr. Jones” has a strong hip-hop influence, from its urban beat to Jones’s vocal cadence to flourishes like record scratches. The song then transitions into “Rock Star,” which still carries a hip hop rhythm but adds a strong rock sensibility.
From start to finish, Audio Paint Job ebbs and flows from hard to soft and from style to style while still maintaining a consistent experience. Jones is equally adept at telling great stories, laying down danceable beats, and rocking out on guitar.