Thomas James White is nothing if not prolific. Jupiter, Florida is the third album in just two years from his latest project The Fiction Aisle and is released through Chord Orchard on January 19th.
Whilst the previous two Fiction Aisle albums were low-key, limited edition affairs – the result of White taking a deliberate step back from the music industry – his ongoing mission into widescreen emotional pop has reached tipping point with Jupiter, Florida. This cult act are now ripe for wider discovery.
Despite their swoonsome, electro-orchestral arrangements, the first two Fiction Aisle albums were created in a swirl of depression and drink, largely exploring the personal rollercoaster White had been on since coming out as a gay man. An artist with rock solid credentials – a founding member of The Electric Soft Parade and Brakes, and a host of solo works and collaborations with the likes of Patrick Wolf and British Sea Power amongst his impressive CV – White is now reconnected and channeling his muse into something profoundly positive.
Drawing from a musical palette of influences including Nina Simone, Harry Nilsson, Broadcast and Lee Hazlewood’s 1970 album Cowboy in Sweden, and produced at Jolyon Holroyd’s Valvetastic Studio near Exeter, from its opening cut, ‘Gone Today’, Jupiter, Florida announces that things are getting better in the world of Thomas James White.
Pulp-ish ballad ‘Some Things Never Die’ is a co-write with White’s life-partner. It’s about, explains White – “that sad/beautiful feeling that when we leave this world, it will carry on as normal and we’re just this thing passing through for a little while, making our tiny little imperceptible mark. Those intense emotional moments where things are so heightened you’re almost seeing and sensing the world in multiple dimensions, or with extra senses. It’s my favourite song on the record, and I think some of my best writing so far.”
‘Black River’ is a photographic wintery snapshot about how accepting change may be the key to happiness; the Morrissey-esque ‘Ten Years Time’ is full of pithy self-assessment, while the twinkling space-disco of ‘Memory’ is aglow with hope.
“I don’t keep a diary,” Thomas explains, “but a record is a loose encapsulation of a period of time. In a lot of ways the new album is a break from the past – it’s me saying, ‘Right, I’m going to do something with all this building up inside me’.”
Titled after a white picket fence American town, Jupiter, Florida is the sound of Thomas James White mining his emotions with newfound relish, letting The Fiction Aisle truly blossom, ready for whatever comes next.
1. Gone Today
2. The End of the Affair
3. Ten Years
4. Black River
5. Sweetness & Light
7. Some Things Never Die
8. Will I Get Where I’m Going Before I’m Ready?
Jupiter, Florida Reviews – click links to read in full
apessimistisneverdisappointed.com The band’s music is superb, and in line with the sort of thing one heard on later Boo Radleys records, for an easy comparison point. I really can’t stress enough what a wonderful listen this one was for me.
Tracks like “Gone Today” see White favor a kind of languid spaciousness in his sound that is inviting rather than indulgent, while the downright lovely “The End of the Affair” suggests those Aztec Camera records where Roddy Frame favored smooth production and sleek surfaces in his sound. “Sweetness and Light” percolates like the best sort of Britpop stuff that White clearly draws a lot of inspiration from even still, while the longer “Memory” is trippy and closer to what Spiritualized was doing at one point in the past. If Thomas White is using parts of the output of The Fiction Aisle to explore some interesting sonic corners, he’s also clearly a strong songwriter and one who is interested in classic forms. Looking to predecessors as diverse as Lennon and Bacharach, White can pen a really strong hook, like on “Some Things Never Die”, even as the final cut on the record, the epic “Will I Get Where I’m Going Before I’m Ready?”, nearly drifts away even as it gently enchants with waves of the melody-line coming in like slow ripples from a distant ship on the horizon.
Jupiter, Florida was such a pleasant surprise to me that I am almost angry that I hadn’t heard of this band so much earlier. The Fiction Aisle make beautiful and affecting music that both fits with the sort of Brit-rock I consumed some decades ago, even as it expands the genre in some interesting and unexpected ways.
brightonsfinest.com He’s back with his third album in just two years and it’s a hugely enjoyable listen with yet more melancholic ambience.
Jupiter, Florida is a very difficult album to pigeonhole. Its soaring, sweeping orchestrals that wouldn’t be out of place on a film soundtrack are incorporated with a collection of fantastic 90s work. For example, opening song ‘Gone Today’ has the melodic charm of an early Morrissey album, but the otherworldliness of Spiritualized. It becomes quite clear early on that White has an immense amount of talent for ambient melody. In fact, it instantly feels like an album that overcomes your entire body with inflected assonance.
For an album released in the middle of winter, it’s a summery, warming listen at times. ‘Ten Years’, for example, recalls the soothing, reassuring tones of Father John Misty with the brass section of Pink Floyd’s Animals. Likewise, ‘The End of The Affair’ is where the jazz inflections come to fruition. The Fiction Aisle has always been a project that is exceptional in its audacity and its production.
The best song on the record is without a doubt ‘Black River’. The sheer scope of the song is massive, but it’s the execution that is most impressive. With its sentimental pop escalation, dynamic guitar lines and sweeping synthesisers it’s a colossal song that continues to propel forward until its surging finale. If Tame Impala released this you wouldn’t be surprised, it’s certainly a song that is deserving of a massive festival crowd.
Additionally, Thomas White’s voice is an absolute delight, worthy of a listen at any point in your day. Like the huskiness of Cage the Elephant frontman Matt Shultz, mixed with Kevin Parker’s sentimentality, it’s arguably the strongest part of the project and the album. This is especially clear on ‘Sweetness & Light’ which is admirable in its idealistic and aestival aura. Furthermore, ‘Memory’ sees White exploring the dance-pop genre with an introduction that sounds like The xx exploding into a bombastic 80s pop song akin to Tears for Fears or Visage.
Ultimately, this is an album that is a spectacular achievement, showcasing White’s awesome production expertise, impassioned magnitude and rhythmic ambidexterity. Jupiter, Florida is a glimmering pop album that feels like high-art. It’s a pensive and studious record that is comparable to some of the greatest artists in music but, crucially, it’s also a hell of a lot of fun.
itstartswithabirthstone.blogspot.co.uk Thomas White, the guiding force behind the band has a credible indie CV in Brakes and Electric Soft Parade. Here he expresses a rather different and more thoughtful vision.
The Fiction Aisle are an elegaic concern. Musing on the passage of time and how life happens to us just as much as us being conductors of it. With a sound supplemented by woodwind and burbling almost eighties synth to augment the standard indie trimmings, the record pleasingly recalls the likes of The Clientele and Blue Nile, characters who were content to haunt the margins of the Pop World.
It’s one of the more exciting albums to appear in 2018, a year that I’ve already complained has taken a while to get going, for me at least, musically. Jupiter Florida does its bit to make amends. A fine record with a quiet and achieved inner ambition.
theartsdesk.com This time round the mood is more tentatively upbeat than previously, and White’s Pink Floyd-ish tendencies are on the back burner, but, at its core, cosmic easy listening is still the game.
The Fiction Aisle aspire to John Barry’s cinematic orchestrated scope, but tinted with hints of Morrissey’s vocal tics, and a broader electronic palette scoping about underneath. “Memory” even has a touch of late Nineties/early Millennial chill-out about it. However, it’s White’s characterful lyrical pith that sets The Fiction Aisle apart, giving his catchy songwriting extra reach and heft.
Previous outings have broached depression in an occasionally desperate or hedonistic manner but “Ten Years” hints at a newfound peace, or at least looking the issue in the eye (“It’s up to me to find any positivity – do I have the strength?”), while indie-ish opener “Gone Today”, despite its summery vibes, may be about existing in the moment rather than letting the past and future nag at the mind.
Another stand-out track is “Sweetness & Light”, a very straightforward, unembarrassed modern love song that’s also contagious. As the album goes on, White relaxes into it, spreading out, letting the sonic stylings grow ever more blissed, notably on the multi-tracked vocals of “Black River”, which bring to mind sunshine in 1970s LA, and the lusciousness of “Some Things Never Die”, until he eventually ends up drifting off on the final ten-minute “Will I Get Where I’m Going Before I’m Ready?”, with its extended instrumental passages heading into balminess.
Jupiter, Florida is as sunny as its title suggests, but cut through with a realist’s lyrical perspective, albeit a realist with a tendency to dream. Once again, The Fiction Aisle prove to be mining original, thoughtful and often lovely territory with a class that’s a cut above the usual.