If you've heard of Gary Jules at all, it's probably because of that piano-driven slow cover of a Tears for Fears song he did for the Donnie Darko soundtrack a couple of years ago. With expectations thus set, you might expect his latest disc to be more in that vein: moody, slow music relying on keyboards and Jules' voice. At least, that's what I expected.
Turned out, however, that Jules is far more interested in pursuing his folk leanings more fully. With his self-titled CD, Jules stays solidly in folk mode, spinning out tunes very much in the mode of Jack Johnson or Iron and Wine; i.e., lots of subdued arrangements, plenty of acoustic guitar and the singer/songwriter up front center vocally. Since Jules has talent to spare and knows his way around a tune, this isn't an unpleasant experience.
However, it's also not the most exciting one, either. Many of the songs blend together into one soporific hum, with only a couple of variations--the melancholy, somewhat more up-tempo road ballad "Wichita" and the slight surrealism of the yearning "There's a Hole in the Sky" being the highlight of these variations--to interrupt the flow. There's not a lot of variation in the instrumentation or tempos, further adding to the blurred feeling.
Listening to this album was a restful experience, although in smaller doses, this CD could make for an effective soundtrack to a romantic evening. Just be sure to include a wee bit of caffeine in your diet if you play more than three songs in a row off this disc, and don't drive or operate any heavy machinery until you've worked it all out of your system.