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Now Hear This: Black Nash | Black Nash

New Yorker Jody Smith delivers a fabulously freaky, freewheeling debut album.

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THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE: “When Jody Smith got out of the military at the end of 2019, the last thing on his mind was releasing an album. He had just finished five years in the Army, and his main goal was getting on his feet as a civilian. “I basically fell flat on my face,” says Smith. “Which I think is a pretty typical experience for guys getting out. The civilian world is a whole different animal. Different work, different people, different lifestyle.”

The pandemic made the transition even harder. Finding himself out of work and stuck at home, Smith decided to record an album under the name Black Nash, which he’d been using casually for home-recording projects throughout his time in the Army. The resulting self-titled LP is a taut, focused tour de force. Performed and recorded by Smith himself (with support on drums from friends in Florida and Nashville), Black Nash is a 25-minute blast of claustrophobic energy, driving from guitar-heavy climax and restless soliloquies. The songs rarely last more than three minutes. The feelings of restlessness are universal.

“I was totally isolated while I was recording,” says Smith, “and I already didn’t know anybody where I was living before COVID hit, so the album ended up sounding like quarantine, to me, at least.” In songs like Alligator and 4 I.O., Smith excoriates a nameless “you,” dripping with disdain and anger. On Love Underwater he navigates a surreal cultish landscape: “Love underwater is not what I thought it’d be / They took dolphins and force-fed them ecstasy.” Throughout, the music bristles with force and tension. Limiting himself to the format of a conventional four-piece rock band — each track features only one vocal track, two guitar tracks, bass, and drums — Smith has constructed musical environments that are both completely airless and full of open space.

Smith, now living in New York City, is circumspect about connecting the album to his biography. “I’m a happy dude,” he says. “I don’t think this album reflects who I am all the time, and it’s definitely not any kind of commentary on my experience in the military. Who wouldn’t be a little wound up this year?” One thing is clear: “Black Nash” is music for 2021.”