Prior to his 2019 album, The Same But By Different Means, Yves Jarvis was not used to having deadlines. It was only when he signed with ANTI- that he suddenly had stakeholders in his creative process. Not that they slowed him down; he didn’t compromise on anything and completed the project on his schedule. It stands out as a wonderful record on its own, and considering his 2020 effort, Sundry Rock Song Stock, it was an essential step to refining his fertile creativity.
The artist also known as Jean-Sebastien Yves Audet is the epitome of DIY, yet his music stands apart from the raw guitar genre you might be thinking of. In fact, describe it how you will—Pitchfork called Sundry “psych-pop” and Bandcamp Daily called The Same “experimental, folky R&B”—but there is no label for music like this. It’s not about how it sounds as much as how it feels.
And the feel on Sundry is evergreen—in saturation and spirit. Audet’s command of the synthesizer meshes beautifully with his skill as a folk singer/songwriter. I hear Sufjan Stevens in the shadows of Jarvis’ whispers and Fleet Foxes in the strategically layered vocals (an all-Yves choir). His noodling melodies on the acoustic guitar are calming, and each transition to and from the electronic accents is filled with purpose. But perhaps his greatest talent lies in his lyricism; Audet is a natural poet. He has little concern for rhyme, prioritizing rhythm over all else.
I am frequently tempted to toss any literal meaning from Jarvis’ discography, but then I always end up stumbling upon nuggets of clarity that catch my breath. For starters, how hopeless the final stanza of “Victim” is! “I’m a vitriolic mass of dynamite/Just bound to ignite.” The previous track, “Emerald,” gleams, consisting of 24 auspicious, gilded syllables that defy gravity and time. “Emblem,” the shortest tune (yet wordier than nearly half of the others) is in fact a curse, instructing one to “seek heresy” and “tread recklessly.” And then there’s the eat-the-rich anthem “For Props”; its final line is a psalm that eviscerates the position of the powerful:
“Your earned fortune Makes you depraved Can’t empathize
I’m sure your hearts in the right place
A fork in all due inertia”
There is no way to truly know Sundry Rock Song Stock without spending time with it. I’ve attempted to describe it in the ways that it has impacted me but that is an impossible task. Each time I return to it, a new facet emerges, each refracting its meaning in a completely new way.