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album review: cosmo jarvis, is the world strange or am i strange?

What’s immediately clear about Cosmo Jarvis is that he’s difficult to pigeon-hole. A singer, song writer, actor, director, (and overall overachiever) his energetic eccentricity is reflected in the name of his new album Is the world strange or am I strange?.

At just 21, Jarvis has already caught the attention of the internet sphere. His self-directed and self-produced video ‘Gay Pirates’ went viral after a favourable tweet from English actor Stephen Fry. It was this song that was sure to make a lot of people take notice of Cosmo’s second album.

The album opens up with unbelievably catchy ‘Gay Pirates’. It’s a song which showcases’ Jarvis’ storytelling ability, detailing a story of love between, you guessed it, gay pirates. It’s one of the songs on the album that conveys the childlike quality which seems to underpin more controversial topics throughout the whole album. It’s innocent and touching, and it’s easy to understand why it went viral so quickly.

A soft guitar intro into ‘Sure as Hell Not Jesus’ gives you the impression of a softer, acoustic album. But the chorus is anything but. A heavy end makes you forget the quiet beginnings of the song, delving into Jarvis’s musical versatility.

‘Blame it on Me’ continues on with this vein of intense music and rapid lyrics. Heavily repetitive, it’s easy to get lost in the tempo changes and array of mandolin solos.

The album takes a different approach when title track ‘Is the World Strange, or am I strange?’ begins. Again, the childlike quality seems to surface with a slower and simple chorus. This track is the first of Jarvis’s ventures into rap, which seems like a gamble considering just how good his normal singing voice is. ‘Dave’s House’ likewise seems tangential; by now it’s completely clear that you’re better off expecting a different sound in each track.

A quiet pan flute again adds to the album’s childlike theme in ‘Let Me Out of my Head’. With such heavy lyrics, it seems that the soft percussion and the flute add a sense of longing which compliments the lyrics so well, and also contains bike bells and obscure beats.

‘The Talking Song’ continues on with the notion of disenchantment and reflection which seems to be in quite a few of the songs on the album. By this stage in the album, his rapping seems to be a little more tolerable. The lyrics begin to surface as the musical experimentation is reduced. The positive music seems to be mismatched against the despairing lyrics.

‘She Doesn’t Mind’ is another departure from the other songs on the album. It’s slower, and channels something of a reggae vibe. Crooning about a romance, it’s easy to get the tune in your head.

The newest track off the album, ‘My Day’, shocks you, especially after the slower pace of the previous song. Jarvis describes ‘My Day’ as a mock self-reflection on his own youth, but you wouldn’t know it listening to it for the first time. It’s aggressive and abrasive after the slower tracks preceding it, but considering the obviously political and disenchanted lyrics, the music seems appropriate.

It’s obvious that Cosmo Jarvis is talented. But this talent is a double edged sword. While in some aspects there is clear direction and promise, the experimentation becomes jarring at times. It’s clear that Jarvis is a man with a lot of ideas. What it leads to seems is an incoherent combination of songs on one album.

After listening to this record, one of two things will likely happen to you. Either it won’t click and you’ll completely disregard the album, or you’ll find something that’ll hook you and you’ll just have to listen to that one more time.

Cosmo Jarvis is in Australia soon. See him in Sydney on Wednesday 12th or Melbourne 13th this October!

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