RIGA - With a name like "Jet Lag" I was expecting the worst from Goran Gora's debut album. I mean, what can one seriously expect from such a title? Songs about frequent flyer miles? Songs about confused biorhythms? Songs about sleepless nights in lonely hotel rooms?
Far from it, thankfully. "Jet lag" is actually a delightfully fresh, inventive and accomplished album by the Latvian newcomers. The only thing I don't understand is why they called their album "Jet Lag" unless they mistakenly thought that it "sounded cool."
The 10-track album effortlessly veers between the acoustic and the electronic and is singing/song-writing of striking originality and refreshing sincerity.
"Kids and Figures" pretty much sets the tone for the whole album. It's a lyrically intelligent and moving song set to a simple strum of acoustic guitar and haunting layers of background noise. Lead singer Janis Holstein's voice is wonderfully trill and tender. Singing in English, his voice has something of the charming intonation one hears in BrainStorm's Renars Kaupers, albeit with a touch more sincerity.
Each song tells a story and each story is extremely well told. "Poor Maria" is reminiscent of Puerto Muerto at their best. It's an exuberant lament that makes good use of the ever-melancholy accordion before trailing off at the end into an incongruous but beautiful piano solo.
"The Girl in the Backseat" is a sweetly sad love song whose jangling chords achieve a rare poetry in music.
"Swim, Robert, Swim" would have benefited from a proof-reader of the lyrics, but it's such an infectiously upbeat song it seems churlish to criticize the dubious English rhymes.
"Girl Is a Snake" is one of the most beautiful songs on the album. Its sparse acoustic arrangement is rendered all the more effective by Holstein's wonderful voice.
It's hard to categorize "Jet Lag." Goran Gora describe it as "Indy-pop" but I don't think such a term really does it justice. It's decidedly un-poppy 's that much is sure. One can discern a whole range of influences at work on the album, most of which are flatteringly reminiscent of artists as diverse as Beirut and Lambchop.
Where most Latvian groups are painfully self-conscious of the "sound" they're after, Goran Gora is impressively assured and self-confident on "Jet Lag." The entire album is suffused with the joy of making music. It has an improvisational quality throughout as if the musicians couldn't restrain their joy at being in the studio, but at the same time the musicianship is extremely accomplished and every song on the album would make a decent single.
It's high time that a good Latvian group came along that doesn't succumb to the self-limiting idea of being a Latvian group. On the strength of "Jet Lag," Goran Gora is one of the most exciting acts to have emerged in the Latvian music scene for a long time. Their sound is exciting and their attitude is intelligent. Best of all, their music doesn't know any borders.