White Room – 28th April
JMSN is a man of many musical guises. Releasing his first record with his band Love Arcade in 2006, then going solo under the moniker Christian TV with a mixtape in 2010, Christian Berishaj found his latest incarnation as JMSN with the release of 2012’s Priscilla.
Moving on from Love Arcade’s punk-influenced, radio-friendly rock to Christian TV’s electro-pop, as JMSN Christian untethered himself from the constraints of his previous major-label signings to Atlantic and Motown, self-releasing Priscilla on his White Room Records label and gesturing towards a greater sense of artistic independence and authenticity. On the whole though, Priscilla was a sparse, nocturnally-inflected R&B record, heavily influenced by a Trilogy-era The Weeknd sound, and one that still displayed an artist searching for his own voice.
With the release of his latest effort as JMSN, Whatever Makes U Happy, Christian has ditched the overt references and slick production, instead creating a pared-down collection of eight tracks, all featuring his falsetto and a tight, unadorned rhythm section front-and-centre.
Opening track and lead single ‘Drinkin’ is a soulful homage to the blues, expertly arranged over a minimal bass line and organ swells to showcase JMSN’s capacity for an emotional vocal delivery, whilst the following number, ‘Always Something’ is a highlight of the record. Pairing a ‘70s funk bass line with a Clyde Stubblefield-style drum beat, the track builds to an infectiously melodic chorus. In fact, the ‘70s soul and funk theme reverberates throughout the record on tracks such as ‘Slowly’, ‘Angel’ and in ballads like ‘Where Do U Go’ with a consistency that can either be read as inspired or monotonous.
There’s a discernable looseness to Whatever Makes U Happy that JMSN lacked in his previous releases. Much like D’Angelo’s Voodoo, the jam-like quality of the record and its frequent ad-libs are its best features and ones that give its consistency the air of authenticity. Whilst detractors might see this release as another genre-exploration by an artist whose previous musical choices seem dictated by commercial trends, Whatever Makes U Happy smacks of a confidence and assurance in its own stylings that is not the result of countless A&R meetings but rather a statement of intent from an artist who has finally found his own voice.