Jake Tobin – Sorta Upset!
9.12.16 by Scott Scholz


Lately it seems like the most interesting kinds of new musical activities are leaning toward the softer side of leisure: relaxing synth jams, sustained, meditative drones, vaporwiffled chillwaves of stay-in-tonight. This totally makes sense. We all need to nurture some calm and immersion and consideration in an increasingly-frantic world. But truth be told, I’m a bit of an anxious person by nature, and some nervous tension is the kind of fuel that gets me through the day. I’m learning to relax, and it feels pretty good, but sometimes it’s like Noah Creshevsky observed in his essay for Arcana II, “Nothing is saved when we save a note.”

It’s rare but incredibly exhilarating to hear an album that sounds kind of like the weirdness perpetually bouncing around in my own head, and Jake Tobin’s latest opus, “Sorta Upset!,” stokes every synapse in my skull and fires up a few more. While this tape barely clears 15 minutes of running time, it’s a concentrated quarter-hour with a career’s worth of phenomenal ideas. And for as complex and layered as it can get, it’s somehow catchy as hell, too. You will totally find yourself humming along with this music, and humming more acrobatically than ever before.

There are 13 miniatures within “Sorta Upset,” many of which clock in at less than a minute, but the whole thing flows together incredibly as a suite. Tobin demonstrates that he’s a killer multi-instrumentalist, too, overdubbing perfectly-executed guitars and keys and saxes that feel as unbelievable as they are inevitable. Though the occasional vocal parts are a bit hard to make out, topics covered balance humor with genuine humility, from burning out on office work to the neurosis of hovering at the mailbox. It turns out that portraying simple things in complex ways is just as valid and sometimes a lot more fun than the opposite.

The whole Haord discography totally rips, but the hard-earned effortlessness of “Sorta Upset” feels like an ideal manifestation of the many influences shared among a new batch of artists both on Haord and Tobin’s own label, Truly Bald. This whole new scene is like a rad update of weirdo Oughts electropop acts like the Zom Zoms or Yip Yip, but drenched in the eccentricities of prog and the assertive energy of no-wave. What a time to be alive. “Sorta Upset” is almost gone, but you can still snag one at the Haord Bandcamp if you put a motor on it.