After picking up a nomination for the IMPALA Album of the Year and 5 Porin Awards with his 2019 debut LP, Dangerous Waters, the mystically eloquent Croatian singer-songwriter, composer, pianist and composer, J.R. August, has released his sophomore LP, Still Waters.
When we first heard his arresting originality back in 2018, we scarcely imagined room for improvement in his naturalistically narrative style. With Still Waters, he’s moved even more dauntlessly into his expressive diction and sonic depictions of biblical iconography, which intersect with artful constructs, dreamlike epiphany, and profound consideration of the elements of nature that we’ve crawled away from.
Still Waters, which was penned in late 2020, captures our adrift and enraged distrust and disinterest in others, where the most pertinent goal is the next drip of dopamine – by any means necessary. The panic attack-inspired opening single, Dealing with the Pain, achieves what so many of us fail to do. – artistically or otherwise. It digs up the raw emotions that follow the reality-warping panic attacks that draw each breath from the atmosphere with the paralysing spikes of cortisol.
Subversively, it forces you to consider the paradoxical nature of our fear that cows us into silence on the subject of it. Especially when the disjointed sense of connection is one of the main reasons for our primal fear and despondence. The asphyxiated breath at the outro jaggedly hammers home just how much Dealing with the Pain was a personal reality.
Track 2, I Forgive Her, carries a similar celestial pull that many became enamoured with when J.R. August became the best-selling artist in Croatia with his debut LP. Yet as a contrast to the gospel-Esque timbre, there’s the unremitting turbulence that becomes a signifying shadow across the expanse of the album.
Goddess of The Flame runs through as an impassioned proclamation of the kind of affection and devotion that leaves you pious to the sheer all-encompassing emotional gravity while the instrumentals scintillate on the very same frequency as those unfalteringly unconditional feelings.
Hope acts as a reflective instrumental divide between the preceding singles and the following five that reveal the progressively candid nature of Still Waters. The tender piano score becomes both a testament to the compositional tenacity of J.R. August and the perfect meditative break before you’re thrown into the Radiohead-reminiscent desert folk single, Divine Intervention.
Track 8, Release Me from My Sin, is a sorrowfully profound confession that exposes more of JR August’s soul than you have seen before, but every piece of the portrait draws you in through the urgency in the plea for salvation. If any song can show you the true universality of human suffering and affirm that those shamefully all-encompassing emotions should never be affixed to shame, it’s Release Me From My Sin.
For the concluding single, Lonely, J.R. August leans even deeper into a sense of mysticism while teasing a new salaciously poetic side as he carries the same daringly revealing tone on from Release Me From My Sin. The lyrics are beyond cathartic to hear; I can’t even begin to imagine how it felt to verse them into such a phenomenally ethereal piece.
The most beautiful thing that an artist can do is dare say what creeps around the most private corners of our mind to give that blissful feeling of hearing vocalised what has only been whispered in staunch psychological silence. That’s exactly where J.R August triumphed in Still Waters. Between each of the nine tracks, all the most innately beautiful phenomena in our 21st-century-choked reality appear; it’s enough to restore your faith in humanity.
Still Waters was officially released on April 15th. You can check it out for yourselves on all platforms via this link.
Review by Amelia Vandergast