Throughout the course of 2019, I spilled quite a bit of virtual ink covering the acclaimed Baltimore-born multi-instrumentalist, singer/songwriter, producer and college student Julien Chang (pronounced Chong). Initially only thought of as “just a trombone player,” the Baltimore-born artist surprised his peers when he quietly began releasing original music saw him playing multiple instruments while meshing psych rock, pop-inspired melodicism and jazz fusion-like experimentation an improvisation with a sophistication and self-assuredness that belied his relative youth. Thematically, Chang’s work sees him tunneling towards deeper truths, while touching upon everyday existentialism, love, life, art — and his own life as a human and artist.
Those early releases caught the attention of Transgressive Records, who signed Chang and released his critically applauded full-length debut, 2019’s Jules, which featured:
- “Of The Past,” a sleek, early 80s-like synth funk-based track centered around dexterous musicianship and pop melodicisim
- “Butterflies from Monaco,” a slow-burning Sgt. Pepper-era Beatles-like track
- “Memory Loss” an 80s synth funk inspired song that continued a remarkable run of self-assured material centered around dazzling musicianship and big hooks.
Chang’s highly-anticipated — and long-awaited — sophomore album The Sale is slated for a November 4, 2022 release through Transgressive Records. Partially recorded in Baltimore and partially in his Princeton dorm room, The Sale is a DIY effort with Chang playing all instruments — with the odd exception of a few notable cameos from some Baltimore locals, classmates and old friends. Thematically, The Sale‘s material sees the rising Baltimore artist exploring the discrepancy between two worlds, a struggle to get comfortable in either one of them, and an artistic fascination with that very struggle.
“Marmalade,” The Sale‘s first single sees the acclaimed Baltimore artist leanings heavily into lo-fi indie pop with the song centered around glistening guitar lines, punchy drums, Chang’s layered, ethereal falsetto and big, infectious hooks. But the song is underpinned by his penchant for expansive, psych pop song structures.
Interestingly, “Marmalade” isn’t as much of a love song, as much as it is about the way one’s memory makes sense of love — and the experience of being in and out of love. “I think the point is that memory runs up against certain limits in sense-making and then has to start relying on fictions,” Chang says. “I wrote ‘Marmalade’ at a time in which this feeling of passionate regret had just finished transforming into something domesticated, incorporated, and basically mundane — a part of everyday life, something that pops up in the mind from time to time and causes me to scrunch my nose.”
Chang continues, “The verses are the positive struggle of trying to make sense of a past romantic experience; the choruses are the ensuing confrontation with non-sense (“I nearly lost my name!”); and the euphoric outro is the resulting victory of a false memory (“I remember falling in love! I remember falling in love! I remember falling in love!”).
Directed by Layla Ku of New York-based collective MICHELLE, the mesmerizing and trippy accompanying visual for “Marmalade” features a mix of still photography and video that includes New Wave-inspired split screens as the video follows the rising Baltimore-born artist driving to the beach, at the beach sitting in an office chair while brushing his teeth and staring at a TV — and playing his guitar in an abandoned, graffitied warehouse space.