Anyone who's rocked the mic at one of Edward Jahn's Burlington karaoke nights knows the guy has a thing for Sting. Not only is he enthusiastic about the man who fronted the Police, his impression of the singer is uncanny. So it's no surprise that his new project, Love and Japan, owes a great deal to the "Roxanne" singer and other new-wave bands of the early '80s.
Compiled in a five-track EP, Tears for Vanishing Ways, Jahn's music not only satisfies a nostalgic itch but solidly stands on its own as a rich and satisfying listen. It's the work of someone who clearly loves but doesn't just regurgitate a particular era. He absorbs the strains of artists such as Men at Work, the Pretenders and INXS, yet his output can't be traced back to any one group in particular.
Jahn's elastic voice allows him to reach absurdly high notes, and he writes tunes that show off his flexibility. Reaching such heights adds to the emotional urgency of his songs, each a love letter in an unmarked envelope.
Jahn self-produced the EP and plays all of the instruments. He populates his music with eloquent and flamboyant phrases such as "We began at the close of the masquerade," "Side street dope queen's a horror scene" and "Cleansing sins on winter winds." Throughout, there's a sense that the world might end at any second and that deep, life-defining romantic love is the only thing that can save it.
Jahn treads closest to Synchronicity territory on opener "Call It Whatever You Want." Insanely catchy and mood-setting, its sweet-and-sour guitar riffs and prickly beats underscore Jahn's desperate wailings, coalescing into a chorus rich with counterpoint between the vocal melody and the lead guitar line.
Bleary with elliptical synth pulses, "Cold War" threads a delicately harmonized melody into brief moments of minor-key uncertainty. The tune's title nods not only to tensions between the U.S. and Russia during the decade that inspired its sound, but aptly captures the strain on the romance it describes.
A prominent bass riff dominates "Moya Moya." Cascades of spangled guitar wash over Jahn's existential dread: "Moya moya moya / I'm afraid it's terminal." Moyamoya is a rare blood condition that can lead to stroke, but Jahn seems to liken it to lovesickness.
"Spider Rain" is a warning of some kind and finds Yahn at his most abstract and paranoid. "The circuits print out our dreams / 'Til only code remains," he sings in throngs of cymbals and guitar pangs.
Deeply poetic and compulsively listenable, Tears for Vanishing Ways is a triumph. Stream and download it at edwardjahn.bandcamp.com.