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Everybody loves a good acronym, especially the members of JJAMZ. Their names make up the title of their band, which is also a sort of indie-rock cool kids club. You’ve got Jason Boesel of Rilo Kiley (who’s also toured with Bright Eyes), Alex Greenwald of Phantom Planet, Z Berg of The Like, James Valentine of Maroon 5, and Michael Runion, who does his own thing. The group just put out an album titled Suicide Pact.
According to their Facebook page, a friend had compared their sound to that of Blondie, which is especially interesting due to the physical likeness between leading lady Elizabeth “Z” Berg and Debbie Harry, as made overwhelmingly obvious by the many photos of Berg flashing a sultry glance. But it’s not just in their matching blonde locks — there’s definitely a link in the music as well, as JJAMZ use their debut to demonstrate a balance in pop sensibilities and upbeat rock structures. “Get What You Want” opens the album chaotically with squeaky guitar sounds and lyrics full of warning: “This is not a good idea / I know it isn’t right / But I’m giving it my all / This is war”. Through the rest of the song, Berg reveals through the lyrics a few life lessons about realizing when to admit one’s own mistakes.
Their single “Heartbeat” is a bubbly pop tune with an accompanying music video portraying Berg as the bouncy-haired high school victim of an abduction, perpetrated by an eerie, balding ghoul. The video is comically faux-horrific, and the song itself is delightful and catchy, but not overly so. Tagging along on the catchy train is the title track, whose vocal and guitar parts are equal in prettiness.
In “Never Enough”, one of the album’s top tracks, Berg reminisces on a tumultuous relationship with a reckless partner, singing almost breezily about the danger that had once compelled her. “The chaos, the madness / We couldn’t be touched”. But just like in “Get What You Want”, the later part of the song shows Berg’s new-found realization, which is in this case accepting that she was no match for it all anyway. Berg and Runion sing together in “Cleverly Disguised”, which feels beach-y and peppy but is also riddled with more serious advice like when Berg remarks, “This lonesome city’s poised to rob you blind.” “Poolside” serves to change up the pace of the album, and the song peaks in the latter half, when Berg’s voice sounds like it’s beginning to strain with emotion, and then continues with some sweet riffing until the end. And the downtempo works yet again in “Change My Mind”, the tenth and final song. Berg tries on a bit of a Norah Jones impression and waltzes through the whispering backdrop of guitars and ambient noise.
So this indie Los Angeles supergroup isn’t breaking a whole lot of new ground with Suicide Pact, even considering the experienced backgrounds of each of the members. But while they’re not re-inventing the indie-pop wheel, the album is a fun one for the summer months.