Jasmine Kelly previously of The Folk-Ups, has released her first solo EP entitled ‘Melt’.
Let’s step back first for a second and talk about The Folk-Ups. I bring this up first because in order to understand Jasmine’s current sound on ‘Melt’, it’s important to look at her past work.
Both her and Ryan were folk musicians but listening to their solo work and their work together, it’s clear that they had different inspirations.
Jasmine, Ryan Harling and their suitcase drum, Shelby, performed together for many years while they were at high school (I guess Shelby went to suitcase school) and were incredibly successful despite their young age. They released two Eps which were largely funded by busking – something that when I tried to do, I got money taken from me instead of me earning money. Steamrolling through the competition, the duo performed at Clockenflap, West Kowloon Freespace and even the Rugby Sevens. Then suddenly in 2017, there were no more updates. Their twitter is silent and Youtube reruns (incredibly well made) music videos from 2017. After a bit of snooping, I found that Ryan had formed another folk project, ‘Little Kings’ and posted an update on The Folk-Ups page in 2019.
I guess I could ask them what happened, but that wouldn’t work for suspense.
Anyway, the sound of the Folk-Ups was what I would describe as lyrical folk. Their music tells a story and uses musical metaphors that take from different folk and theatrical traditions. The lyrics aren’t ‘traditional’ folk and the music isn’t simple. It’s got a lot of percussion, a lot of strings and many interlocking guitar and vocal parts – think Irish folk but modernized. It takes an incredible amount of musical mastery to get to a point where you can really pull it off and yet they did and before going to University.
If you compare Ryan and Jasmine’s older work together with their solo careers, you can see how both of them took a part of the Folk-Ups sound. Ryan has become a master of Irish guitar and tours Europe as a solo folk artist. Jasmine, meanwhile, has taken the modern, lyrical and pop side of the Folk-Ups and released Melt.
I’ll let you take a listen to their stuff yourself because now I’d like to move onto focussing on Jasmine.
Melt is an EP with five catchy tracks that showcases Jasmine’s laid back, day-in-the-life style song writing. None of the songs are very fast; the melodies are catchy and easy to sing and the lyrical content of the songs aren’t complicated. The songs don’t feel pretentious, in fact they don’t really feel like they’re doing much. I think they would best be described as musical vignettes of moments – sometimes general moments, sometimes oddly specific moments (Microwave is about finding something to have as a midnight snack). This isn’t to say that the lyrics are meaningless or without substance, far from it, Jasmine’s poetry carefully balances expected pop clichés (Gaze is largely about being unsure about a lover) with slice-of-life vibes to create the ultimate relaxing yet relatable vibes.
The musical writing goes hand in hand with the lyrics like a cocktail on the beach, or Instant noodles with Arizona Tea, as the rap in Microwave goes. The music, mixed clear but with a lo-fi vibe, takes influence from alt-folk pop, jazz and blues, and the increasingly popular electronica-chiptune style. If I was to compare it to other artists, I’d liken Melt to the likes of Aivi and Surhassu/Rebecca Sugar (of Steven Universe and Adventure Time fame) and Billie Eilish. The overall sound really is an intersection of blues, alt-pop and J-Pop. It’s a sound that’s been popular in J-Pop and other Asian circles for a while but has only just started to appear in the English-speaking music market and predominantly within metropolitan American circles.
Wednesday for example, starts with Jasmine’s voice compressed quietly underneath a blues-cocktail piano that’s followed by a muted trumpet, guitars and drums. The mixing of the track is nothing to be scoffed at with multiple perfectly balanced vocal harmonies, instruments, sound effects and special effects that never clash into each other. It’s not an easy feat and many indie artists fall short of hitting the mark – but not Jasmine.
Just like I described of the Folk-Ups, Jasmine’s solo sound is not easy at all to create, it takes an amazing amount of musicianship both in terms of composition and performance. Somehow Jasmine has taken her previous work, which was already impressive, and matured the sound into her own. She’s really outdone herself in Melt. I cannot recommend this EP enough and will be pining for a full length album hopefully very soon.
– Cyril Ma