Sublimity and Sentimentality: Inside Jaguar Sun’s Stunning Debut, This Empty Town

Sublimity and Sentimentality: Inside Jaguar Sun’s Stunning Debut, This Empty Town

Like a dusty photo album in your parents’ house, Jaguar Sun cracks open an intimate glance of bittersweet hometown nostalgia on his debut LP, This Empty Town.

In this boundless hindrance of a year, I, along with what I imagine to be much of the American population in their twenties, found myself in the tense circumstance of retreating to the town I grew up in. I reclaimed my childhood bedroom with its walls painted a color that I’m sure was very cool in the 2000’s to escape rising case numbers in my current urban residence. I chose to attend a city school because it seemed like the opposite of the close-knit community I spent the first eighteen years of life in. (“A great place to grow up, but not much left for me past that”, was my go-to line when asked about it). Sleeping beneath the teal-blue walls that watched me grow up and retracing old stomping grounds feels familiar yet it doesn’t really belong to me anymore – as if new perspective made those old realities only half-remembered, half-true.

On This Empty Town, Ontario-native Chris Minielly ruminates on that precise bittersweet nostalgia through sentimental love songs and twinkling soundscapes that sound distant yet comforting. The “empty” quality in the record’s title refers to the surface-level appearance from the perspective of an onlooker, and the irony of the unseen memories ingrained in those scenes. Released on July 24th, the eight-track LP was released as Minielly’s solo debut under the pseudonym Jaguar Sun, following three singles, “Keep You Warm”, “Next Year”, and “Those Days”, released over the past few months. 

The record opens with what feels like the sonified form of a sunrise. A continuous crescendo follows the sun’s path as the title, “Red”, illustrates the warm wash of color awakening the quiet dwellings it falls upon. Distinctive acoustic instrumentation juxtaposed with abstruse synth effects reflects the surrealism of a memory only partially recalled, and a single refrain repeated throughout the duration of the track feels like a moment frozen in time as the surrounding reality melts away.

“I look back at you
You look at me
Everybody else disappears so easily”

As “Red” fades into “Keep You Warm”, Minielly explores the raw aspects of a relationship when confronted with harsh realities. Opening lines, “We never got it right / We never got it wrong” outline the inevitable trials two people must go through before reaching an understanding. The sentiment carries no feelings of resentment, only forgiveness and peace. The refrain, “You’ll be alright, I’ll keep you warm” feels remarkably safe – something this album manages to perfectly convey in its entirety. Alongside the release of “Keep You Warm” as a single came a self-produced music video depicting a continuous pan of Minielly in his softly-lit home studio. Overlaid collages of distant images may symbolize the remembrances that went into the making of This Empty Town, unbeknownst to the observer.

The first single off the record, “Those Days”, was also accompanied by a video. This one consists of spliced video clips under a hazy film filter, visible through a small window and creating the illusion of a spectator peering in. The hurried montage illustrates/represents the perception of witnessing a memory that doesn’t belong to you, while the sense of nostalgia demands to be felt vicariously and wholly. Lyricism is largely stripped back to instrumentally emote what words cannot capture. Swells of lush multi-instrumentation allude to Minielly’s musical influences, cited to the likes of Youth Lagoon, Panda Bear, and STRFKR.

Mirroring opening track “Red” (both tracks are about half as long as the rest of the album) and bookending the sun motif is the title track “This Empty Town”. It feels like the sonic equivalent of dusk, or maybe more appropriately, blue-hour. Introductory lyrics, “The sun sets down and I saw you come around / Remembering all those times we walked around this empty town” feel wistful and final yet unabashedly hopeful. Before you’re given the chance to recoil, an even greater sense of optimism arrives on closing song “Next Year”, which conveys a sense of dawning. Ambient nature sounds heading the track give the conclusion of this record an organic quality, as if it could only come from something inhuman. A pulsing crescendo gives way to this final stanza of passing imageries, fading into the quiet trickle of a stream – carrying away our focus to a future of endless potentials.  

“Late night, small fights
Dim lights, long flights
Close friends, weekends
Weak knees, deep end
Small talks, long walks
Cold wind, deep thoughts
Sunrise, her eyes
Dashboard, blue skies” 

This Empty Town is currently available on all streaming platforms via Born Losers Records. Watch the video for single, “Those Days” below:

Jaguar Sun - Those Days (Official Music Video)

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