Carnavon, Australia-born, Fremantle, Australia-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer Jay Watson is an extremely busy and restlessly creative man: Watson splits his time as a touring member of acclaimed JOVM mainstays Tame Impala and POND. He’s also the creative mastermind the acclaimed solo recording project (and fellow JOVM mainstay act) GUM.
Spinning Top Music released Watson’s fifth GUM album Out In The World earlier this year. The album, which is the highly follow-up to 2018’s critically applauded The Underdog was written and recorded in between tours with Tame Impala and POND continues Watson’s long-held reputation for having a voracious taste for styles, sounds and different eras. Thematically, the album is fueled by the Carnavon-born Fremantle-based artist’s quest to make sense of modern life — with the album’s material being fueled by an untethered curiosity and the inherent anxiety of too much awareness and too much connectedness.
Sonically, Out In The World’s material may arguably be the most boundary pushing of Watson’s growing catalog. “This album is my attempt at making a record that combines my fascination of how other people live their lives, with my own internal desire to analyse mine and improve it,” Watson says of his latest album. “‘Out In The World’ was a phrase that conjured a lot of grandeur and ego, yet somehow felt really small and wholesome at the same time.”
I’ve written about two of the album’s singles:
“Don’t Let It Go Out,” the album’s second single, a track that sees Watson pushing his sound and songwriting in a bold new direction. Centered around a glistening arpeggio guitar riff, jangling acoustic guitar, propulsive four-on-the-floor and shimmering synths, “Don’t Let It Go Out” finds Watson pushing his sound and songwriting in a bold direction while retaining the hook-driven, carefully crated nature quality that GUM fans have loved.
“Airwalkin,” a swaggering 80s synth pop-like banger featuring tweeter and woofer rocking boom bap-like beats, squiggling synths, soaring strings and an enormous hook that sonically seemed indebted to J. Dilla. Odelay-era Beck, Future Shock-era Herbie Hancock and Kraftwerk.
Out In The World’s latest single “Low to Low” finds Watson pushing his sound into a new direction — but while arguably crafting what may be the funkiest song of his catalog. Centered around shuffling polyrhythm, explosive horn stabs, dusty breakbeats, tinny Casio-like synth arpeggios and Watson’s yearning vocals, the track sounds as though Watson had been listening to salsa, Expensive Shit/He Miss Road-era Fela Kuti, 80s New Wave and synth pop the deceptively breezy pop confection actually seems to express a fear of irrelevance and of being forgotten.
“I purchased an EHX DRM15 drum machine and the song developed from one of the preset beats, this ‘robot-latin vive with lots of spring reverb. It was the last song I recorded for the album, it’s bizarre stylistically, but I just went with it,” Watson says of the album’s latest single.
Co-directed with POND bandmate Jamie Terry, the recently released video for “Low to Low” was shot in Fremantle on grainy Super 8 or 16mm film, and the visual captures the sunny warmth of Western Australia — while following Watson walking around with an enormous plastic box. “ My mate Az gave me 16 panels of Perspex he had found, who knows where? GUM thinks outside (and inside) the box,” Watson says of the video. ““Now that the dust has settled on Out In The World,I think this is probably my favourite track from the album, and I know it is for lots of other people too, so I wanted to make a visual for it,” he adds.