Postmodern Jukebox gives a jazz touch to classic songs // The Observer
Most wouldn’t wonder what the White Stripes ‘”Seven Nation Army” would sound like like a vintage New Orleans funeral song or what The Killers’ “Mr. Brightside” would sound like in the 1940s Rat Pack style, but Scott Bradlee’s Postmodern Jukebox, abbreviated as PMJ, aims to give a jazz touch to modern songs like these and many more.
With over a billion views on YouTube, PMJ has gone from a shoot at Bradlee’s apartment in Astoria, New York to a sold-out global phenomenon and topping the iTunes jazz charts, all without the support from a major label or corporate sponsorship. PMJ’s ambitious new album “Blue Mirror,”Which marks the start of the band’s second season of videos, reflects their growth while also serving fans the same style that made PMJ so successful.
“Blue Mirror”, the band’s twenty-first album, addresses some of the biggest hits in the pop music industry, including a 1950s-style cover of Toto’s “Africa” and jazz covers by songs ranging from ABBA’s “Dancing Queen” to “Christina Aguilera” Genie in a Bottle. “
The nine songs of PMJ’s “Blue Mirror” can be divided for the most part into two categories: covers that sound like slightly jazzy versions of the originals and covers that completely reworked the original song. For example, while the instrumentation behind the vocals on “Africa” was very different from the Toto original (think a lot more about the brass), the vocals and music were quite faithful to the Toto original, including even an electric guitar solo. The song has an upbeat ’50s jazz vibe that obviously wasn’t present in the original, but overall it wasn’t a major change from the song’s roots. Casey Abrams delivers a particularly loud voice on the track as he mixes the rock styles of the original and the jazz style of the cover.
On the other hand, the ’60s jazz-style cover of Christina Aguilera’s “Genie in a Bottle” group feels like you’re listening to a completely different song. With the exception of the vocal riffs and the same lyrics, the song is completely unrecognizable with its 60s style electric guitar riffs and lack of synths.
Whatever style PMJ chooses to cover each song, as with their previous albums, the musicality of the album is excellent. One of the advantages of having a rotating cast of singers and musicians is that PMJ can find singers whose style perfectly matches the style of jazz in which the cover is being made. This is something PMJ does particularly well on this album, establishing the style of each cover and executing it painstakingly.
Of course, an important aspect of Postmodern Jukebox is their YouTube videos as well, which include actors dressed in historically appropriate costumes, tap dancers, and other pageantry. So far, for their second season of music videos, PMJ has released only one video, a short for their cover of “Africa”. Unlike most of their previous videos, which featured single camera shots, the “Africa” music video is shot from multiple angles. It will be interesting to see if future PMJ videos will follow this style or return to their proven style.
While some of the album covers seem to lack the certain originality and innovative style for which PMJ has become known – “Life on Mars?” and ‘High and Dry’ mostly sound too similar, overall the album is another hit for the band and marks a solid start to their second season of videos.
Artist: Scott Bradlee’s postmodern jukebox
Album: “Blue mirror”
Favorite tracks: “Welcome to the Black Parade”, “Genie in a Bottle”
If you want: Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, The Puppini Sisters, Caro Emerald
Clovers: 4 out of 5.