In Praise Of Shadows
Blue Flowers · February 5, 2021
Jacob Allen, better known by his stage name Puma Blue, shows great artistic promise on his newest album In Praise Of Shadows. Having previously released a handful of EPs and singles throughout the years that have gradually gained popularity, Puma Blue’s sound seems to have evolved on his latest record. Compared to his prior work, In Praise Of Shadows has much cleaner guitar tones, much less reverb and effect-heavy production, and a clearer sound in general. It seems as though his sound has matured over time. “Velvet Leaves” is a prime example of this, creating a lush and comforting soundscape through the use of gentle hums and simple yet effective guitar and bass lines. Puma Blue delivers one of his most endearing vocal performances on this track as well, and the entire song builds up over the length of the track to a euphoric crescendo in the last minute or so. Contrast this to one of his most streamed singles, “Moon Undah Water,” a track that while embracing a buildup much the same as “Velvet Leaves,” is much more intoxicating, reverb-heavy, and seductive in nature. It’s the same philosophy, but a different formula – and in turn, a more refined result.
The star of the show on In Praise Of Shadows is easily Puma Blue’s entrancing vocal delivery. His unique brand of hushed, sensual vocals pairs well with the subdued and relaxed instrumentation he crafts on each song. A good example of this is on the closing track, “Super Soft,” where his vocals seem to hover just above the simple string arrangements. The track itself is one of the more intimate moments on the album and serves as a great conclusion to the ideas presented throughout the tracklist. The 11th track on the album, “Opiate,” is another example of his vocal style working well on a track, employing a very catchy hook alongside melodies that show his vocal prowess.
On a few tracks, Puma Blue ventures outside of his normal style and experiments with different rhythms and ideas. For example, he employs intriguing rhythms and idiosyncratic melodies on the track “Oil Slick,” which almost makes it reminiscent of certain cuts from The Dismemberment Plan in its unpredictability and tonal shifts. As a result, the track is hands down one of the most interesting on the album, moving with an impeccable fluidity and maintaining a phenomenal atmosphere throughout. That being said, sometimes the experimentation doesn’t quite click, like on “Snowflower,” where the pitched-up vocals distract from the songwriting.
That being said, while Puma Blue does use some tracks to experiment with different ideas, there are other tracks that seem to be a little one-note, and as a result, are somewhat forgettable. For example, “Silk Print” doesn’t present any new ideas, or expand on any that were previously presented. Furthermore, the track is not nearly as well mixed as some of the others on the album, with the guitar sounding noticeably quieter than the vocals, making it difficult to pay attention to. Another example is the track “Sheets,” which makes use of a very cool sample of Jon Brion’s “Phone Call” from the soundtrack of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. However, nothing really interesting is done with the sample – Puma Blue just sings over it, which causes the track to be bland and not very memorable in the end.
While the album is flawed in this light, it still shows great potential. Even the more lackluster tracks on this album still have likable qualities. Puma Blue has shown he has the skill to craft beautiful, haunting songs with his unique style. The question that remains is whether he can hone his skills and excise the less compelling aspects of his tracks to create an album that would bring his artistry to the next level.