Making it weird: “The Jacknife Lee” reviewed

A bop-filled, love letter to the nineties, featuring Beth Ditto, Sneaks, Open Mike Eagle and more.

‘S’posed to be plannin’ the rest of my year
But I’m sittin’ here thinkin’ of things I made weird’

Irish behemoth of Indie production and master remixer, Garret ‘Jacknife’ Lee, is someone whose name you probably recognise, but you might not necessarily know why. His notable works in production reads like a trip down memory lane (more specifically my late teens and early twenties) with albums from Bloc Party’s second studio album & melodic electronic masterpiece Weekend In The City (2007), to Taylor Swift’s 7x Platinum album Red. And the list doesn’t stop there, he’s worked with U2, R.E.M and my personal favourites Weezer to name just a few more.

He describes his transition to LA in 2009 as ‘doing all the things I was told I was supposed to do’- which led to him working with established pop artists like Swift. Lee began to teach middle school soon after and describes the moment a child in his class asked how nineties hip-hop was made. With this moment in mind, he dusted off his vinyls & went back to producing records he wanted to produce with artists he loved whilst simultaneously making beats for himself. This period was the start of ideas taking shape for the artist, leading to his debut- ‘The Jacknife Lee’, featuring Genesis Owusu, Earl St Clair, Beth Ditto, Sneaks, Haviah Mighty, Petite Noir, Muthoni Drummer Queen, Bibi Bourelly, Barny Fletcher, Aloe Blacc, and Open Mike Eagle.

Jacknife Lee | Photo credit: Matt Mahurin.

Lee wanted to focus on his love of African beats, Electronic music & singers & vocalists he’d not yet worked with, some of them key players in the vast US underground scene. This started with Post-Punk poet, Sneaks & developed from there as Lee began to reach out to other artists.

The result is the perfect album for a sunny afternoon with a Gin in the garden (with the new normal being just that, I’m out of other ideas!)

Jacknife Lee in the studio | Photo credit: Esme Lee

As a whole, it’s a fantastic record and one I’m already looking forward to owning on vinyl. Here are my standout tracks of the album (Of which there are many, if not all, of them!)

The opening track, Flutter featuring Australian singer Genesis Owusu, sets a dreamy, soulful precedent for what’s to come next.

Enter the gravelly funk-laced growl of Earl St Clair and the unmistakable, empowering vocal range of Beth Ditto accompanied by Jazz trumpets roaring in on top of a Fela Kuti-esque beat with I’m Getting Tired – a track certain to fill the dancefloor when it’s safe to do so again.

As a huge fan of spoken word, punk and experimental hip-hop outfits reminiscent of Daveed Diggs’ Clipping, Hit the Bell featuring Sneaks and Haviah Mighty really hit the spot (I’m so sorry). Sneaks snarky poetic delivery is great paired with a beat you can’t keep still to. And Haviah Mighty, well. She’s going to be huge.

The Studio features the sassy dulcet vocals of Bibi Bourelly and snappy flow of rising star Barny Fletcher to a feel-good funky beat that will stick in your head for the best part of a day and you won’t even be mad about it.

Whilst we’re on the subject of earworms, Made It Weird, is a track that has been stuck in my head since the first listen. Featuring the deadpan delivery and psych-soul vocals of heavyweight of the underground hip-hop scene Open Mike Eagle, this absolute banger paints a electro-funk picture of self-deprecating, existential dread you can party to whose lyrics are almost too apt given the current world situation:

‘S’posed to be plannin’ the rest of my year
But I’m sittin’ here thinkin’ of things I made weird’

Me too, Mike, me too.

Other artists featured on the record include Aloe Blacc, Petite Noir, Sisa Wabaya and Muthoni Drummer Queen.

It’s a myriad of bops, weaved together so seamlessly from start to finish, that you can feel the mic being passed from one artist to the next This record is unique in its showcase of a melting pot of raw talent from artists that should be taking up more space in music, and that includes Jacknife Lee. I’m already excited for the next record.

Jacknife Lee – “The Jacknife Lee” is released on the 26th June by Slow Kids Records. Jacknife Lee: Website | Twitter Instagram

❉ Cori Ann Smith is a writer for We Are Cult. A Cardiff-based Literature grad, Horror nerd & eclectic Indie cindy, you’ll mostly find her immersed in a book or in a festival crowd, usually with a beer. Perpetually working on a book of short stories… @coriflowercheez on Twitter.

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