Jakob Dylan’s first solo album, ‘Seeing Things,” is a humble sound. Its meaningful lyrics and soothing acoustic guitar make the album worth listening to and buying, driving the music along even when Dylan mistakenly crosses over to pop.
It is clear that Dylan’s departure from his group of talented musicians in The Wallflowers helped the singer-songwriter find his own sound. Dylan is more intimate with the listener in this album than in any of his previous works, as you can almost hear him performing right by your side.
Dylan’s solo album is a stark contrast to his father’s work. While Bob Dylan’s music rarely departed from folk or folk rock, Jakob Dylan’s album crosses into alternative rock and pop, although its roots are still in folk. Dylan’s voice has a light, characteristic, family accent to it, but with a more mellow touch overall a combination I truly enjoy.
The second track on ‘Seeing Things,” ‘Valley of the Low Sun,” is one of the best on the album. Dylan’s melodic voice leads the tune along, but the lyrics themselves are enough to give a listener pause.
Each verse of the song pictures two different scenes, from sea travelers to the battlefield, from the earth itself to a ‘beast” rising, ‘speaking in tongue.”
In the middle of the first verse, Dylan sings, ‘We bow down and worship these bandits and cowboys/ unable to hold their own guns; I know that soldiers are not paid to think/ but something is making us sick.” In the last verse, he sings, ‘Whatever we’ve taken does feel like heaven/ but baby we just look like hell.” Clearly, Dylan intends this song to send a powerful message.
‘I Told You I Couldn’t Stop,” the album’s sixth song, continues with the soothing tone, but is geared more toward pop than any other song on the album. But, once you get past the weak, riff-driven chorus, you hit Dylan’s thoughtful lyrics in all three verses and the song comes alive.
The song only references war once, but it is an obvious theme throughout the album, even disregarding ‘War is Kind,” the seventh song on ‘Seeing Things.”
‘Something Good This Way Comes” is one of the weakest songs on the album. It veers towards pop, with a quick guitar lick to open and repetitive, (relatively) thoughtless lyrics. The meaning of the song, however obscure some of the lyrics may be (e.g. ‘Collar up on my coat/ trucks are pulling in for the show/ grasshopper jumping the road/ kids they’re all running home/ “cause they know; something good this way comes”), is quite clear, but not very deep: something good this way comes.
‘On Up the Mountain,” on the other hand, is perhaps the most uplifting tune of the album, with an attractive riff and pleasant lyrics throughout. This piece does what ‘Something Good” only tried to do: it makes the listener feel better, stronger. Such manipulation of emotions is welcome and cannot be achieved by simpler songs like ‘Something Good This Way Comes.”
The album hit no. 24 on The Billboard 200 with 24,000 copies sold in its first week, although no songs were breakout singles. It was produced by Columbia Records co-president Rick Rubin, whom MTV calls ‘the most important producer of the last 20 years.”
The album is a tremendous compilation of deep tracks. As long as Dylan sticks to his strengths his lyrics and voice and stays away from pop, he’s sure to top the success he had with The Wallflowers with a bright solo career.
Epstein is a member of the class of 2010.