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JACK O' THE CLOCK

Prog Folk • United States


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Jack O' The Clock biography
San Francisco area band Jack O' The Clock is fronted by Damon Waitkus who has been a progressive rock fan since the first wave, but also a fan of more melodic and poetic music of that time. Their sound is not your typical folk music, or typical music at all for that manner, being a surprisingly accessible blend of avant garde and Americana, and has been compared to Henry Cow, Gentle Giant, Sufjan Stevens, Frank Zappa and others. They have released 3 critically acclaimed albums as of 2013, with more in the works.

A band that is hard to characterize, they have found a home in prog folk because of their inherently folk instrumentation and timbre, their profound take on storytelling, and, well, the tendency for folkies to be an inclusive lot anyway.

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JACK O' THE CLOCK top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.50 | 8 ratings
Rare Weather
2008
4.20 | 10 ratings
How are we doing and Who will Tell us
2011
4.09 | 60 ratings
All my Friends
2013
3.94 | 14 ratings
Night Loops
2014

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JACK O' THE CLOCK Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 All my Friends by JACK O' THE CLOCK album cover Studio Album, 2013
4.09 | 60 ratings

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All my Friends
Jack O' The Clock Prog Folk

Review by Mellotron Storm
Prog Reviewer

4 stars JACK O' THE CLOCK are an American band who play an avant-garde style of Folk music but we also get some Zappa-like tunes and passages, in fact we even get a Chamber-music vibe as well with bassoon, woodwinds and brass being featured. There are a lot of instruments and guests helping out on this 2014 release. The cover art is an old black and white photo that looks like it's turning yellow. I'm not a fan of Folk music so it took me a while to appreciate what they've done here because I just don't naturally like Folk. This is innovative and challenging though with enough variety to keep me interested. I have to mention the lyrics as well because they are so well done and they speak to me at times.

"All My Friends Are Dead" is an amusing title I suppose and I didn't expect the first song to be so haunting with those desperate sounding spoken words adding to the eerie mood. Strings and intricate sounds help out and there's plenty of dark atmosphere 2 minutes in when the vocals stop. They return and it's not as dark this time as horns, flute and more help out. "The Academy" is a short piece with spoken words and light Classical music as the sounds of applause come in late to end it. "A Lot Of People Are Dead wrong Most Of The Time" has this Zappa-like intro as the vocals join in. A very melodic and enjoyable chorus arrives, especially the vocals. A cool instrumental section follows before the vocals return as it continues to change although themes are repeated. "The Pilot" has these interesting percussion-like sounds as the vocals join in. This is avant-garde all the way then it turns fuller before 3 minutes and this is really enjoyable. "Deepwater Turbines Turning" is another short piece with strange sounds that rise and fall before it settles down late. I like it! "Half Searching, Half There" opens with banjo and acoustic guitar I believe as reserved vocals join in and the banjo stops. It builds 2 minutes in but it's brief although this theme will return later.

"Saturday Afternoon On The Median" has sampled voices as drums, bass and guitar join in. This is different as it's more of a Rock tune. It then becomes Zappa-like just before a minute. This is an uplifting song and one of my favs. "Disaster" features piano, bass and percussion early on and we get some female backing vocals as well. I like the line before 2 minutes that says "Oh my God am I the only one that saw that!" as the mood rises beautifully. "Analemma" has atmosphere galore to start but we do get some vocals, but when they stop the atmosphere dominates once again. "What To Do In Our Neighborhood 1" opens with a quotation from one of the Gospels before bass, drums and horns lead the way as the vocals join in. Picked guitar also joins in this upbeat number. I like the backing vocals late. "What To Do In Our Neighborhood 2" is nothing like part 1 as this is more Zappa-like than Folk. "Old Friend In A House" is another favourite of mine. Trumpet to start in this sparse soundscape as soft vocals, percussion, piano and more are added as he sings about smoking hash and more. The trumpet is back before 4 1/2 minutes then it picks up a minute later. The trumpet leads as spoken words arrive 6 1/2 minutes in. A spooky calm follows then the vocals return with plenty of atmosphere. "All My Friends Are In My Head" opens with atmosphere and sampled voices then just before a minute we get a folky instrumental section taking over with lots of intricate sounds.

This has been getting quite a bit of hype in certain circles so if your into challenging Folk music this is a must. A low 4 stars from the anti-Folk fan.

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 Night Loops by JACK O' THE CLOCK album cover Studio Album, 2014
3.94 | 14 ratings

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Night Loops
Jack O' The Clock Prog Folk

Review by Progulator
Prog Reviewer

4 stars It wasn't even a year ago when I first heard of Jack O' the Clock, a compelling avant-folk ensemble hailing from the East Bay Area in Northern California. At that time I was so impressed as to quote Fred Frith's comments on the band's composer, calling him "extraordinarily courageous" with "some of the freshest and most surprising music." Well, even after such a short time between releases, I must say that Frith's words still hold up, not only in regards to 2013′s All My Friends but also to Jack O' the Clock's latest release as well, their 2014 album Night Loops.

While Night Loops essentially features a similar array of instruments as its predecessor (acoustic guitar, glockenspiel, violin, bassoon, and a pretty much a greedy musician's length Christmas list of other acoustic instruments), at its core the tone of Night Loops is quite different than All My Friends. Where All My Friends was oftentimes an upbeat (but strange) rural folk extravaganza, Night Loops is a weighty head-on dive into the abyss of the human soul. In fact, there are more or less three levels of Night Loops: dark, darker, and darkest. I do not hesitate to say that this an album that oozes despair. Just so that this is not to be mistaken as a criticism, I will clarify that in this case it is a strength. There is absolutely nothing in this album that sounds, false, unauthentic, or to be taken lightly. Night Loops is a meaningful and introspective album whose avant-garde tendencies certainly do not take away from its ability to feel very human.

Right from the start, Night Loops plunges into the aforementioned bleak atmosphere. The album opener, "Ten Fingers" sucks you in with a array of creepy ambient sounds around a percussive motif calling to mind Sleepytime Gorilla Museum. While this piece is dominated by a folky melody on vocals, the instrument arrangements are not what would be expected. Rather than plucky acoustics we get a lot of eerie droning violins. The whole piece is tense and unsettling, and it sets the perfect tone for the rest of the record. Following up after "Ten Fingers" is "Bethlehem Watcher," an interesting track with some tricks up its sleeves. Essentially we get an reverby piccolo over a bit of old style American folk vocals that eventually break into a gritty blues, but what comes afterwards is what really caught my attention: an epic cathedral style organ with that sort of gothic vampire vibe offsetting a bluesy riff. I can imagine this sort of thing being done before, but never quite this cool or unique.

Unique music is pretty much the name of the game throughout the album. Take "Tiny Sonographic Heart," for instance, a fascinating short piece where barely audible tremolo mandolins create an interesting sound akin to what one would imagine with the world on the brink of a storm, where the piano injects unsettling chord changes, and where the lead part is played on a BLADE OF GRASS. Yes, that's right, a blade of grass, and it doesn't sound like a gimmick. It's highly musical and fits in perfectly with this quiet yet tense piece. Then there's "How the Light is Approached," an interesting song featuring loads of dissonant ringing from bundt pans (almost sounding like bells) among a percussive sea of shakers and behind some wild bassoon soloing and unusual vocals which spin all around the mix in the strangest of ways. "Fixture" ended up being one of my personal favorites, a track where mellow percussion permeates an atmosphere of subtle chord shifts, droney instrumentation, and an overall feeling of the foreboding. The vibraphone on this track particularly goes a long ways in darkening the mood up after a really cool, sort of screechy baritone violin solo, but in the end there's lots of cool stuff going on here whether it's the already mentioned vibes and violin, the incredibly eerie solo vocal section over percussion, or the cool marimba part at the end.

There are, of course, a few pieces that ring a bit more 'normal,' but even in these situations the band always maintains its identity firmly. "Come Back Tomorrow" on some level is a conventional acoustic folk guitar piece, but the brutal lyrics and heavy emphasis on dissonant fingerpicking create a bleak musical soundscape during much of the piece despite the fact that it does move towards a lighter ending with a bit more emphasis on rhythm. Similarly, the album closer "Rehearsing the Long Walk Home," reins in the strangeness with its tight focus on the folk guitar and voice. This melancholy acoustic ballad abounds in constant picking and limited chord changes, but what makes the song dark and convincing, however, is the extensive use of ambient electric guitars in the background; swells, slides, crescendos, and soloing all combine to create a dense atmosphere that adds deep melancholy to the piece.

If you were a fan of All My Friends you most certainly need to check out the latest effort by this fantastic Bay Area ensemble. With Night Loops, Damon Waitkus and Jack O' the Clock continue to carve out an impressive niche within the prog, avant-folk, and Rock in Opposition genres.

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 All my Friends by JACK O' THE CLOCK album cover Studio Album, 2013
4.09 | 60 ratings

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All my Friends
Jack O' The Clock Prog Folk

Review by ProgShine
Collaborator Errors & Omissions Team

5 stars Jack O' The Clock is an American band and a completely different one. To begin with, all of their three albums have the same kind of design in their covers with old pictures that take you far away in time and space. All My Friends (2013) is their latest album released in March completely independently and it took 4 years overall to be completed.

I didn't know the band when I was approached to do a review of their new album and I admit that the band didn't convince me in a first moment, but I was wrong! Jack O' The Clock is a completely unique band and All My Friends (2013) is a brilliant album!

Jack O' The Clock is formed by Damon Waitkus (vocals, guitars, etc.), Emily Packard (violins, psaltery, etc.), Kate McLoughlin (vocals, bassoon, flute), Jason Hoopes (bass, piano, vocals) and Jordan Glenn (drums, percussion, accordion). But they used a big range of guest musicians in All My Friends (2013).

'All My Friends Are Dead' is the track one and it's a beautiful piece of music. It's a great beginning for the album. Unfortunately, there are no lyrics in the booklet of the CD, but you can find them on the band's website HERE. One thing is certain, listening to the first track made me speechless, this is truly amazing! The band achieved their unique sound using tons of different instruments. Just for you to have an idea, only in this first track they used instruments such as music box, banjo, flute, glockenspiel, violin, viola, bassoon, acoustic bass, vibraphone, accordion, waterphone and clarinet. Just to name a few of them.

Then 'The Academy' follows and it's an interlude with speeches and claps. More of this will be presented later. Glued with the previous track is 'A Lot Of People Are Dead Wrong Most Of The Time' (one of the best track names of the year). The diversity of the band's sound is just incredible. And on top of that, we have great vocals by Damon Waitkus. 'The Pilot' is weird. Half is like a mini symphony made of percussion. The second half is very proggy. Attached to it we have 'Deepwater Turbines Turning'. And the small interlude sounds exactly like the name states. To follow that, we have 'Half Searching, Half There' with their beautiful weird-Folk-driven trade mark sound.

'Saturday Afternoon On The Median' is supposed to sound like a live recording but in fact it isn't. There's Zappa moments here and there with very strange Jazz moments while Jordan Glenn's drums and Jason Hoopes' bass hold everything together brilliantly. Attached to this track comes 'Disaster' that is carried away by piano and drums. And 'Analemma' has amazing melodies and vocals.

'What To Do In Our Neighborhood 1 & 2' are Pop, great Pop. Part 1 is beautifully penned and executed with special attention to the bass and vocals. Part 2 is just a wonderful sequence where the 5 strings violin of Emily Packard shines a bit more. After a more simple approach they go back to their Jazz weird moments with 'Old Friend In A Hole'. That starts exactly as an old Jazz standard and a trumpet (by Darren Johnston) cries loud alone in the night. But it turns out to be a Jazz song with a twist, there are speeches here and there. The final track 'All My Friends Are In My Head' ends the album as it began, in a circle. And it's just superb!

All My Friends (2013) is the first contact that I have with Jack O' The Clock's music and I can say I'm a fan already. 4 years in the making, a great production and an astonishing sense of writing and arrangement make All My Friends (2013) one of the best albums of this year.

Jack O' The Clock is what you get when you put together After Crying, Frank Zappa, Donovan, The Beatles and Indie Pop. A must have album!

It would be a 4.5 stars rating, but between 4 and 5, it's a high 5!

(Originally posted on progshine.net)

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 All my Friends by JACK O' THE CLOCK album cover Studio Album, 2013
4.09 | 60 ratings

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All my Friends
Jack O' The Clock Prog Folk

Review by Windhawk
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars US band JACK O' THE CLOCK surfaced back in 2008 with their debut album "Rare Weather". Since then this five men and women strong ensemble have established themselves as a fairly active live unit, and two additional studio productions have seen the light of day as well. "All My Friends" is the most recent of these, and was self released by the band in 2013.

Jack O' The Clock appears to be a band well worth seeking out if you enjoy a band that manages to create innovative music with something of a foundation in folk music. The end result has strong ties to traditional folk music in general and arguably a US oriented one in particular, liberally flavored with occasional avant-oriented sensibilities, jazz inspired details and some instances of sequences, arrangements and themes with somewhat closer ties to chamber music. Stunningly beautiful at best and always interesting on some level, this disc should be a nice find to those with a liberal taste for innovative music in general and folk inspired varieties of that nature in particular.

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