Armed with a dynamic full-length debut, †Priscilla†, Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter JMSN is primed to ride the creative new wave that has washed across R&B music over the past year or so. The alternative R&B/pop-soul artist has already garnered early comparisons to The Weeknd based off his first single, “Alone,” a drugged-out tune full of eerie drums and foggy atmospherics.
But over the course of †Priscilla†, JMSN (pronounced Jameson) proves that comparison to be a bit reductionist. Certainly, drugs pervade the artistic worlds of the two artists, and both share a propensity for layered, falsetto vocals – but where The Weeknd is engulfed in a drugs-and-sex-filled existence to the point of emotional void, JMSN is emotionally distant but perpetually longing for what he wishes he had. In some ways, †Priscilla† – a full-length rumination on lost love – feels very much like a complementary piece to 808s & Heartbreak.
JMSN, though, isn’t a mimic of his recent contemporaries. In stretching †Priscilla† to an almost-too-long 16 tracks, he gives his compositions room to expand, pull back, shift, and surprise: check the dark, jazzy soul of “Love & Pain” or the serene closer “Nunca Se Sabra.”
What makes †Priscilla† all the more impressive is that it’s also entirely self-produced. And far from being just a novelty, the production is one of the highlights of the LP. Each of the songs is a construction of three or four layers of instrumentation, with ace-in-the-hole Jamie Saunders playing live strings on more than half of the tracks here – providing JMSN’s sound added drama and weight without veering into overkill.
Lyrically, tracks like “Something” and “Fire” risk making the object of JMSN’s affection something of a caricature – from the woman-as-addiction metaphor implied on the former track to the disturbingly dark imagery of the latter. But JMSN makes enough reflective concessions towards his muse to render his account honest: the sombre torch song “Runaway” is steeped in self-wallowing until almost the very end where he finally admits, “What you needed isn’t what I wanted to do.” It’s a telling line from an artist confident in his album’s style and story. And he deserves to be. †Priscilla† is by no means perfect, but it’s a damn fine first project from an artist who seems to have finally found his niche after years of trying to break into the industry. Alternative R&B. Indie R&B. Call it what you want – the music speaks for itself.
†Priscilla† is streaming in its entirety below and on SoundCloud.