112. Song No. 1,543: “Call My Name Out,” Matthew Jay
Draw was one of the first times a “You might also like” recommendation algorithm had me perfectly pegged. One of my earliest assertions of college freedom was using my newly established bank account to scour Amazon and eBay for imports, rarities, obscure EPs and limited-run recordings from my favorite musical outfits in an eager bid to grow a CD collection that would impress the kind of people I wanted to impress in college; I don’t know if it’s the anglophile tear through British indie rock or my general penchant for singer/songwriters’ output that ID’d me as the perfect target audience for Matthew Jay and his debut album, but whatever it was was a mighty auspicious pairing.
There’s a lot to love about Draw and its lilting, piano-driven and somehow intensely original and introspective songs that don’t so much betray Jay’s inspirations as use the foundation they laid to create something immediately recognizable and infinitely enjoyable from its charming airiness that packs a legitimate wallop. So many albums have that lull where a couple tracks drag or somehow throw off the vibe of the whole shebang; Draw has no such nadir, nor did Jay really give the album that heralded his arrival a chance to slow down. It’s not so much energetic as it is generally upbeat, but the feeling drives the album forward with the intensity of a more in-your-face album, demanding attention not for its aggression but for its artistic merit.
And then, roughy a year later, when mourning Elliott Smith and mentioning to a friend how at least Jay could be the British answer to help fill the void Elliott’s inevitable but still intimately painful death left behind, said friend reluctantly burst my bubble, directing me to an article about how Jay had fallen to his death in a presumed suicide almost exactly a month before Elliott. For someone who hadn’t grown up idolizing musicians who are hellbent on burning out rather than fading away, the one-two punch of losing two musicians whose music meant a great deal to me was a lot for my soft and barely adult heart to absorb.
It is a shame that most of Jay’s catalog is posthumous, when Draw was such a hopeful taste of what’s in store from a newcomer barely into his 20s who was capable of putting out such a stunning collection of songs with his very first go at an album. “You’re Always Going Too Soon” might have been the track I glommed onto the hardest and put on the most mixed CDs, but “Call My Name Out” was constantly jostling with three or four of its littermates for a close second. Like so many other albums and artists I love but have fallen by the wayside with time, new favorites and shifting tastes, revisiting it, Draw and Matthew Jay was a lovely reminder of a dearly departed artist’s potential and the songs he got to share with the world while he was here.