I'm not going to pretend that I have long followed Tony Jay
. In fact, I first heard of the artist this year when I read that Mike Ramos, whose alter ego is Tony Jay
, and Karina Gill of Cindy were releasing an album together under the name Flowertown. Well, we covered the Cindy album (link
) and Flowertown isn't ready yet, so I took the opportunity to dip my toe into the musical world of Tony Jay
The album is titled Hey There Flower, after one of its songs. But in my mind the album is 'The Wonderful Musical Sketch Book of Tony Jay' (yeah, I know, I am never going to make it in advertising). What Tony sketches are concise commentaries on love, loneliness and a few things in between. His mode of expression is sparse, intense, and captivating. The arrangements are invariably lo-fi and slow tempo, blanketed with a fuzzy hiss. And it only took one listen to decide that it is a very special album. It has a '60s feel, albeit washed in an eerie slowcore machine. An ace example is "September Skies", which could be the 1965 'last dance' at the prom for the introverted students. I just love that song.
But then, I love a most of the songs. The vocals are hushed, matching the arrangements. And while it is low-fi, the recording evinces a confidence and sense of purpose, and hell with the people that don't get it. It is as if Azure Ray was playing Television Personalities. Ramos recorded them solo during the pandemic, but called on a lot of friends to add featured and backing vocals. Backing and featured vocals were provided by Karina Gill (Cindy), Griffin Jones (Galore), Kati Mashikian (Mister Baby), Alexis Harper (Al Harper)k & Hannah Lew (Cold Beat). While all of the guest vocalist clearly 'got' what Ramos was doing and amplified the songs, it also is clear that Ramos and Gill bring out top performances in each other. So watch for the upcoming Flowertown release.
Hey There Flower
is out now via San Francisco's Paisley Shirt Records.
"Melted Car" (feat. Karina Gill)
"Hey There Flower"
"Ode to Little Bird" (feat. Alexis Harper)
"September Skies" (feat. Karina Gill)
Bandcamp for Hey There Flower