About a month ago I watched Justin Hayward Young – aka Jay Jay Pistolet – shuffle onto the stage at the Hoxton Bar and Kitchen, peer out over a frankly meagre crowd seemingly waiting for Peggy Sue later in the evening, and proceed to charm them into stunned silence with his haunting vocals and softly strummed guitar.
Beautifully, his debut EP, Happy Birthday You, has exactly the same effect, melting through your nervous system like a ghostly echo from an abandoned mineshaft, with a voice that forces you to irresistibly sit up and take notice.
Recorded in a minimal style by Noah and the Whale’s Charlie Fink, the EP oozes the skill and attention layered into it, belying its seemingly minimalist sound with warm brass and striking vocal effects which ensure the songs hit to the very core.
There’s nothing new stylistically here in each of the four tracks – Justin clearly knows where his roots are when it comes to folk – but his maudlin tones carry the songs through familiarity and into something much more permanent, as if they’ve been in you all along just waiting for him to pluck them out and show them to you.
Pick of the bunch is the superbly lilting title track – there’s no messing around with an intro, just three minutes of wistful longing for a lost love full of beautifully simple imagery and turns of phrase.
It’s out today – get it, stick it on, close your eyes and enjoy.
Words: Mike Didymus