URL: I began listening to Jacques Gaines’ “Something Wrong with Me” unfamiliar with his body of work and ended the song a fan. It isn’t often a performer and writer can win me over with a single track, but Gaines brings a high level of artistry and personal stakes to the song audible from the first listen. The single from his first album in many years, Volume Won, comes along with a first class video illustrating the effort and thought he has put into his music and its presentation since his youth.
Based now out of the Tacoma, Washington area, Gaines came of age in Quebec City and his initial success in the music world came in Canada first as a member of the briefly lived band Q-City before it morphed into the longer lived unit Soul Attorneys. The latter proved to be the vehicle for his greatest commercial success to date as they scored hits and embarked as a support act on major tours during their run.
The video released in conjunction with the song strengthens the track’s impact thanks to its eye-catching visual sense and boasts artistic flair without ever coming off as pretentious or overwrought. It has an excellent sense of how to use color in an understated way and never relies on clichéd elements of the genre, like jump cuts, to achieve its desired effects. It is suggestive without ever outright stating anything and doesn’t center the filming around Gaines like so many other videos do.
The lyrics delve into a relationship breakup with far more sensitivity than other hamfisted efforts in this area. Gaines approaches the composition of the words with the same sense of economy that defines his musical approach and it results in spartan, yet pointed, writing that nails down the theme without ever making things too obvious for the listener. Another key to the song’s success in this area is its universality – if the song is autobiographical, Gaines doesn’t weigh it down with personal details and, instead, crafts the songwriting in such a way anyone who has went through such a situation will form a connection.
He doesn’t sink the musical arrangement with a heavy handed approach to its instrumentation. Keyboards play an important role adding color to the track and both the guitar playing and rhythm section possess an understated presence in the performance. Gaines’ vocal has an elegiac tone and is torn between shouldering blame and placing on his former partner, but avoids rancor. The only vocal aggression in the track comes from David Lamb’s brief rap vocal and even his contribution is more rhythmic than strident. “Something Wrong with Me” is a great way to open the door to Gaines’ new album and will attract him a bevy of new admirers.