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Track Review: The Valuable Single // Jon McLeod

Merging elements of indie-rock, folk and blues, but with a distinctive downtempo sheen, Jon McLeod is an innovative, eclectic and highly versatile artist. Over the past ten years, Jon has performed as part of several musical projects receiving coverage from BBC radio stations and notable media. Last year he decided to abandon his stage name (The Focussed Distraction) and release original material on his own. The latest addition to his evolving discography is The Valuable Single.

Following his critically acclaimed five-track EP Dream… You’re Awake, Jon bares his soul in The Valuable Single. Featuring the tracks ‘Valuable’ and ‘Static Air’, The Valuable Single is almost seven minutes of downtempo bliss. Penned and recorded during the Covid-19 lockdown period, the UK-based singer-songwriter touches on sociopolitical uncertainty, angst, isolation and frustration.

Known for his reflective and introspective lyrics, ‘Valuable’ and ‘Static Air’ share a poignant narrative which is enhanced by the hushed vocals. What I find particularly interesting about these tracks is the layering of instrumentation and vocals with the melodic flow being dominated by synths. Yet, while there is a strong lo-fi influence, Jon finds the balance between electric and organic sounds to promote a river of engaging harmonies.

Tinging the distorted grunge-like instrumentation with post-punk haziness and acoustic country/folk undertones, Jon McCleod showcases his versality and eclecticism as an artist. Unlike the more acoustic folk-inclined ‘Static Air’ with a Keith Urban-esque base melody, ‘Valuable’ is far more complex with Jon elegantly traversing several genres within a single song. Yes, the instrumentation plays a large role in forming the kaleidoscopic soundscape, but I believe it is the haunting vocals that contribute to an otherworldliness. Menacing in its fragility, The Valuable Single juxtaposes disillusionment and stark awareness in a simple seven-minute release.

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