So here we have a singer-songwriter, wandering around in shadowy soundscapes filled with thunderstorms, but he knows exactly where he’s going! He gets his emotions across, singing about the dark side of love in poetic lines that you want to think about. “I took what I needed for a time / And still I’d never trade your lies for mine.” (“Kinder”) “Middle Of Nowhere” with the gorgeous line “Still write songs for you / Though I know we’ve been through for a long while now”, with harmonica and Martha Wainwright probably comes closest to a singer-songwriter track. Together with introspective alt.country-ish heartbreak duet (yes, incredible Martha again!) “Long Walk Home”: “Looking back and you’re turning away / With all my questions of yesterday / To be answered some other way.” With pedal steel… If Gram & Emmylou had been twenty-somethings after the millennium! “Trouble” is a short guitar/pedal steel song, following as a kind of “Part 2″. “All This And Nothing” appears as an intense alt.rock track, while “Wake In Place” is orchestral with strings: “Don’t show me your mask today / I see through it now anyway.” “In Between” starts off with hypnotizing soundeffects and winds from the ears through the mind like a slow stream, beautiful! “Broken as a string you’ve played…” “Dry Season” shows off Josh’s expressive singing and in last track “Ecstasy” we find the title of the album: “I’m feeling the nights rewind / Like you’re still around.”
Meanwhiles is the brainchild of songwriter and multi-instumentalist J. Allen. His songs may have been written in Brooklyn, but they do not belong to the city.. they are stories of heartbreak and heavy dreams, with the flicker and flash of modern life coloring their field of vision. Meanwhiles’ sound contrasts J. Allen’s raw acoustic guitar, vocals and self-reflective songwriting style with bleary-eyed layers of loops, finely crafted effects, organs, pianos, and the odd sample from the tv. J. is accompanied on record by his brother Todd, who adds phased out distorted bass parts and dynamic drumming, as well as Alan Weatherhead, producer/arranger extraordinaire (Sparklehorse) on pedal steel guitar, and Nadine Khouri who adds a subway tunnel echoed vocal to the haunting ‘Dreams From the Underground’.
‘All This and Nothing’ (EP) 2003
2003 was a turning point for Allen. He had drifted from his drummer and longtime comrade Jason Green (Hopewell) and been torn from his brother/bass player by Todd’s ongoing struggle with drug addiction. He’d been disillusioned by offers given by record producers who wanted to reconfigure the sound of his songs… and had been kicked out of his Brooklyn loft and recording studio.
It’s no wonder that the first Meanwhiles EP ‘All This and Nothing’ is at once a desperate, pleading call.. a longing for escapism, and a rumination on failed relationships and feelings of loneliness in a big city’s whirlwind.
Alone with his songs for the first time, J. began recording what would eventually become Meanwhiles debut CD ‘The Nights Rewind’ in a tiny bedroom.. playing all the instruments and creating layers of rhythm with salt shakers, over-amplified finger scratchings, and by banging on furniture and scrap metal.
Live shows featured Allen creating live loops of noise and note patterns, backed by his brother and other guest musicians. Periodically they would be joined on stage by Martha Wainwright, who at first would lend her sweet, earthy voice to end-of-the-set cover songs such as the Boudleaux Bryant classic ‘Love Hurts’. She would eventually come to record harmony vocal parts on the two Nights Rewind tracks, ‘Long Walk Home’ and “Middle of Nowhere’.
‘The Nights Rewind’ (LP) 2004
At a performance marking the release of ‘All This and Nothing’ at NY’s Mercury Lounge, Meanwhiles’ set attracted the attention of Sparklehorse/ Mary Timony producer Alan Weatherhead. Overjoyed by the prospect of working with Weahterhead, J. spent the rest of the year writing new music and transforming the EP into a full-length album with brother Todd. And, in early 2004 with a 9-day visit to Dave Lowrey’s Sound of Music Studios, Weatherhead’s touch at the control board brought the grace and power of a big studio sound to the home recordings… resulting in the first Meanwhiles full-length record, The Nights Rewind.
A tour of the US began, stages were shared with everyone from Paul Kimble (Grant Lee Buffalo) in Seattle to Cheap Trick at NY’s Virgin Megastore, and when The Nights Rewind was picked up by the German label Decoder, the touring extended to Europe and the UK, bringing shows with Dean and Britta, Hush the Many, Laura Gibson, Nadine Khouri among others.
‘Slow Motion Summer’ (LP) 2008
In between tours during the summer of 2006, J. Allen began crafting what would become a second full-length record, ‘Slow Motion Summer’. Another bedroom (a slightly bigger one) recording that combines a bare knuckled indie-rock approach with a sculpted studio vision. A pure cosmic sound, blending modern noise with older, more classic instrumentation.
The ‘Slow Motion Summer’ tracks find Allen digging bravely into bare emotion in his lyrics, and deeper into the American folk-country tradition with his melodies. His increased work and interest in the world of film scoring and sound design begins to make its way into the recordings, lending each mix its own landscape. Traditional song structures live side by side with subway car screeches and jingles from the TV.
In 2008, with drum and bass help from his brother Todd, and long distance collaborations with Alan Weatherhead and Nadine Khouri, Allen completed the mixing on his finest effort to date, ‘Slow Motion Summer’.