Strings as soft as silk form a delicate, colorful harmony as “The Legendary Fist of Takinawa,” one of nine songs found of Jeremy Rice’s Jeremy Rice and the Legendary Fist of Takinawa, takes shape before us, but there’s a cloud of hesitation that follows its reverberating warmth. The fragile landscape is quickly shattered with the appearance of a chugging riff and a lumbering bassline in the background, and we soon discover an energetic surge of electricity in the lead vocal from Rice that can be found in every track he appears on in this debut LP (which, as you would guess, is all nine of them).

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“Nme,” “Beleev” and the sterling singles “Arriianne” and “Somebody Like You” are really well-mixed pop songs with reliably crisp finishes and a strong focus on Rice’s singing abilities. There’s an interesting mix of standard, vocal-centric tunes and abrasive, almost punky pop/rock numbers of Jeremy Rice and the Legendary Fist of Takinawa, and though some might feel a little overwhelmed by all of the variety that the disc has to offer, I think that this is essentially what a good virgin outing should consist of – it’s the many layers of its artist’s personality on display all at once.

I would have stuck “The Legendary List of Takinawa” at the start of the album and put the combo of “Johnny Rogers” and “Arriianne” a bit closer to the end, but only to make this LP flow just a little better than it already does. In this current arrangement of the songs, it feels rather sprawling and difficult to process in a single sitting, but aside from that the content here is beefy, and even slightly over the top in a few instances (“Dream Tonight,” in particular, sparkles just a touch more than it really needs to).

The guitar parts in “Underneath the Ground” and “Arriianne” are a lot more rugged than they are anywhere else on the record, but it doesn’t disrupt the mood of the music at all – if anything, I actually think that it adds a touch of contrast where there would have otherwise been none. The only real problem Rice has in this album is recycling a familiar hook from one track to the next; if he can spread out the melodies a little more than he has in songs like “Somebody Like You,” he’s going to maximize his appeal to serious and occasional pop fans alike.

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It’s nowhere even close to being a perfect debut, but Jeremy Rice and the Legendary Fist of Takinawa is a likeable LP with a strong pop center and a lead singer in the aforementioned Jeremy Rice who can really belt it out when it counts the most. There are a few growing pains that he can clearly get past between now and the next time he hits the recording studio, but by and large I would have to say that Rice has a lot to look forward to at this juncture of his career – provided he can keep making harmonies as powerful as the best ones we hear on this album, of course.

Sebastian Cole