When the world turned off during the pandemic, indie artist Jason McCue took advantage of the time alone to look in on himself and how technology had taken an overly important role in his life.
After some self-reflection, McCue developed his album, Screen, Turn On – which dropped September 9th – as a message to those he’s closest to in order to send some positivity in these concerning times where technology seems to take priority over human relationships. The album is full of emotional guitar melodies, complex instrumentation, and McCue’s raw, earnest vocals as he reaches out to those who can relate to digital loneliness he had felt.
The project begins with “One More Time,” a raw introduction as the listener gets their first listen of McCue’s unique vocals and dynamic musicality. The artist plays with tempo and instrumentation layering making the tune a very different experience for every listener. He tells the story of looking for redemption after missed opportunities or foolish mistakes.
One of the album’s pre-released singles, “Tempted”, has already gained traction for its catchy melody and McCue’s original storytelling techniques. The single touches upon spiritual themes, and how religion plays into the lives of the namely “non-religious”. The tune includes playful guitar and organ riffs that keep the piece uplifting despite the complicated topic.
The other single off the album, “Ceiling,” has more of a ballad-like theme, as it tells a story about boundaries, and how quickly overstepping them can ruin something good. Again, McCue demonstrates his unique composition skills as the tune defies traditional musical styles, and includes many complex rhythm techniques that McCue displays effortlessly. The guitar melody that courses through the song is incredibly catchy, and has a certain melodic essence to that of legends like dare I say The Beatles or Simon and Garfunkel.
The briefest tune on the album, “Ocean,” was my personal favorite from a musical standpoint on the project. Its delicate and intricate instrumentation and the way McCue utilized his vocal ability to portray the emotions of the song made for a really moving piece, and it is masterfully composed. He toys with harmonies and musical scales to make a complex yet strainless tune.
The eighth track, “Sante Fe,” seems to be the inspiration for the album title, as the line “Screen, turn on,” is a repeated thread throughout. While McCue’s guitar skills are showcased throughout the album, this track features his acoustic talent, as the piece is underlayed by intricate licks and melodies.
The album concludes with “Everything is Good,” one of his more upbeat pieces and complex instrumentation-wise compared to the rest of the album. The piece includes all of the best parts of the project, like McCue’s unique use of harmonies and his classic indie-rock composition style. The outro to the track is especially notable, as he gives one last show of his intricate guitar style and playful tempos.
Screen, Turn On is the songwriter’s third studio album, as his previous ones included Wasteland (2019) and Pangaea (2018). McCue looks to get back on the road soon, given his last tour was cut short by the pandemic, but luckily out of that catastrophe he was able to find the silver-lining that inspired Screen, Turn On.
Featured photo by Nathaniel Legg