An eastern-flavored string groove dances out of our speakers in “High in Space,” but its lighthearted melodies are only a sampling of what’s to come next in “Human Animal.” Funky basslines propel a fluttering pop hook in “So Far Away,” and if the chorus of this song doesn’t get your heart synchronized to the beats being dispensed so elegantly by Jas Frank & the Intoits, the acoustic club fodder of “Virtual Friends” most definitely will. The flirtations with Caribbean-style swing give way to a psychedelic tizzy of folky harmonies in “All the Highs All the Lows.” We’re not expecting the blues wallop that smacks us as hard as a sonic force can in “In a Hole,” nor the ominous neon strut of “Unlight the Light” or the resonating melancholic drawl of “In Early Mornings.” “When the Rain Stops” is full of just as many surprises, thanks to its delicate minimalism flanked with bludgeoning bass and scorching riff rock carnage, but all of this tension is ultimately building up towards a climactic finale that will leave even the most discriminating of music critics in awe. This is The Girl from Cherry Valley, the debut album from Jas Frank & the Intoits, and it’s lighting the European underground on fire right now.
The Intoits’ own Marko Gacina and Slaven Bolanca produced and mixed The Girl from Cherry Valley, and they did an amazing job of attending to the minutest of details within the band’s incredible sonic profile. In the music video for “All the Highs All the Lows,” every element sourced from the single is given the VIP treatment from behind the soundboard, and unlike a lot of similarly surreal releases from the group’s peers, the video itself isn’t bloated with unnecessary frills or subtext to the narrative within the lyrics. Other songs on the album, like “In a Hole,” “When the Rain Stops” and “Virtual Friends” see the master mix spotlighting the most subtle of nuances in the rhythm and textured vocals from Frank, whose velvety voice somehow slices through anything that her two bandmates can conceivably put in front of her through the string section.
Pristinely produced, powerfully evocative on multiple levels and littered with a searing melodicism that stands as the most charming of any I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing in all of 2019, Jas Frank & the Intoits’ The Girl from Cherry Valley is required listening for anyone who appreciates a solid experimental rock jam. In some respects, The Girl from Cherry Valley is constructed similar to a progressive rock concept piece, though devoid of the pompous excesses and bombastic drama that frequently repels more intellectual listeners from such releases. Every song here is contributing to the big picture and trying to translate a collection of emotions that, unquestionably, are impossible to communicate through mere linguistics alone. This is a powerful statement record from these up and coming Croatian rockers, and in an age where natural tonality and freewheeling lyricism are harder to come by than ever before, they offer something that is incredibly refreshing, to say the least.