Shuffle | Chromatics
Portland's Most Enigmatic Indie-Dance Act Is Back (Eventually).
Joshua P. Ferguson
Part of the fun of musical auteur Johnny Jewel is just keeping tabs on the guy. He's the backbone of nearly half a dozen projects including Glass Candy, Desire, Symmetry and, arguably his marquee outlet, Chromatics. He recently took over sole control of the label that each act calls home, Italians Do It Better, and he's spent the better part of this year being, well, a tease. When he's not sharing the stunning visual and musical tapestries of Lost River, the directorial debut for Ryan Gosling which Jewel composed the soundtrack for, he's leaking songs for the upcoming Chromatics record, Dear Tommy, which could arrive at any time.
Shortly after the initial announcement last December, fans had the nebulous date of "before Valentine's Day" to look forward to. Alas, the Hallmark holiday has come and gone and still no Dear Tommy. Thankfully, the vacuum in between then and now hasn't been a silent one. Jewel has actually been intensely active on his Soundcloud page, releasing a string of tracks from both the Dear Tommy and the Lost River OST.
With each, he's skillfully building up anticipation for anything and everything Italians Do It Better—and keeping that anticipation at a fever pitch. A visit to the Chromatics Facebook page reveals a legion of fans pining for more. "Johnny, I need more Chromatics in my life. When can we have Dear Tommy?" writes one. "The wait's killing me!" writes another.
Herein lies the sly DIY genius of Jewel, his label and all the acts that are a part of his camp. It's a strategy that most recently caught the attention of Pitchfork. The music culture behemoth dedicated space to a slickly designed feature last month that covered Jewel, his 'empire' and his rogue promotional style. Press of this kind just seems like sugar on top to Jewel who's too busy hand stuffing and sending out posters to anyone who sent him an email (this, an actual promotion he ran back in January).
Whatever Jewel's game—carefully calculated or born of his passion for the music (or both)—it's got our attention. So as a way of fanning the flames for Jewel who we've long admired and to help you bid the time until Dear Tommy does arrive, here's a collection of the best material Jewel's released recently.