Two years ago, my first article for The Edge was a review of JP Saxe‘s Deluxe first album. Two years later, it is only right to give you all an update on his discography and confirm that, in fact, he is still a genius.
It is safe to say that JP Saxe has been on quite the adventure since the last LP released in 2021. Shortly after the Deluxe edition, the news of his split from quarantine sweetheart Julia Michaels broke, as Saxe fled to Colombia to rekindle a relationship with his late mother. He expressed how being in South America, a place she had spent much of her time, and learning Spanish helped him to feel closer to her in her departure from his life. This is something he touched on in his final song from the first album, and it shows this theme of grief continues to be prevalent in his life.
Onto the album, 13 songs that take you through the story of love, loss, heartbreak and rediscovering yourself outside of a relationship. It begins with a musical adaptation of Yesika Salgado’s poem “Old Time’s Sake”. Saxe’s voice flits through the wordy lyrics easily and the gentle piano backing fits the words perfectly. It’s very reminiscent of the talk-singing Saxe likes to infuse with his song-writing a lot, and is a beautiful intro to the album. It sets the tone for the album, encapsulating exactly the feelings of being single but also carrying the guilt of the end of a relationship and considering the impacts of rekindling it.
It carries very smoothly into the next song, and the single that led into the album, “I Don’t Miss You”. The song is honestly kind of funny in tone, while also having sadder undertones as you begin to unpack the meaning. It’s as if Saxe has his tongue in his cheek saying “I don’t miss you, I just think about you all the time” and haven’t we all been there? It’s clear it is written shortly after a breakup as it reflects those initial feelings of not being allowed to miss someone because it’s over, but knowing that it’s hard to remove their presence in your life that easily.
“Anywhere”, the next track, takes on a different undertone. Melodically, it starts off dreamlike, as if some sort of flashback. Saxe discusses how he understands that being away for long swathes of time (likely touring) may stir doubt in the mind of his partner. The fact this song is so sullen and dark in tone really emphasises a sort of regret and sadness that in hindsight, some of the promises about “not going anywhere” were hard to keep.
“Caught Up On You” and “Everything Ends”, both previously singles, also take on this foreshadowing/regretful tone. The former discusses the small things around falling in love and how they just wanted to live in the moment. It’s a song that can also be attributed to moving on from a new relationship, however I like my little theory of Saxe’s albums telling these long, beautiful narratives, so we’ll go with that! “Everything Ends” features up and coming artist Lizzy McAlpine and discusses these similar initial phases in a relationship and the true belief one may have in the honeymoon phase that “everything ends except us”. It is definitely a song sung in hindsight and still holds true to the almost regretful reminiscence “Anywhere” has, without explicitly saying it.
It’s track six onwards where you can really hear the way this relationship unravels rather than inferring from melodies or tones. “Someone Else’s Home” brings up the issue of moving in with someone else and having different decoration taste, and never really feeling like it’s your home. Seems small, but the emphasis Saxe puts on the issue shows how even the tiniest issues can begin to unravel into bigger issues. Sonically, this song builds and builds, as issues in relationships do, and I am just obsessed with the layered vocals, something Saxe does a lot on this album and it has me absolutely hooked from song to song. “Fear and Intuition” feels like the next page in the story, where Saxe has now moved out of the house with doubts about the relationship, flitting between listening to the fear of existing in this relationship out of his own insecurities, or listening to his intuition and leaving. He also reflects on all the places he’s lived and the relationship culture within them that affects him. It’s a clever song and is something many people can relate to, whether they take it to be about a relationship or not.
“Who You Thought I’d Be”. Arguably one of the most heartbreaking songs on the record. Saxe hypothesises the moment his former lover finds the one she was mean to be with, who is everything Saxe himself had promised himself to be. This song is boastful of the usual narrative style of Saxe’s songwriting, with careful details about the type of coffee and the nights they’ll spend together. To me it’s the final giving up of this relationship, the realisation that Saxe cannot in fact be the one she needs anymore.
Previous singles “Moderación”, “The Good Parts” and “Where You Think Of Me” sandwich my favourite song on the album – Track 10, “All my Shit is in My Car”. The former three songs are quite different, with the first having obvious Spanish elements, as alluded to by the title, no doubt homage to his late mother. It’s a pleading pop anthem, begging a lover to love all the way, not just half way. It feels a bit like “Tension” on album one in its meaning. The second two were perfect choices for singles, giving a sense of the heartbreak and regret and feelings that Saxe was processing in the early days of the split. “The Good Parts” is unique in its optimism and lack of bitterness, concluding essentially that all good things come to an end.
Now, on to my favourite. It is genuinely sheer production, vocal and lyrical perfection. It builds in this lovely way with the same chord being played over and over all song until it kicks off in its bridge. Saxe’s vocals really shine here, and the “live” voice I was so enthralled by hearing at his show last year. The song is essentially a very detailed description of his thought process moving out of the house after a breakup, and wishing he could have felt and done everything she wanted without making false promises to confuse her. I simply cannot explain this bridge in any way, so if you listen to any song on this album, this is it.
Th album ends out with “If Love Ends”, bringing things back to the very simple style on the piano. The production feels very grand and the deeper tones work well with a deeper vocal range from Saxe – it is very satisfying and easy to listen to. The song is the confusion of what to call love when it ends, and all the ways he feels it went wrong. It’s the sum up of all the songs so far and ties this deeply heartbreaking album up perfectly.
I am aware I’ve rambled for a bit, but in conclusion, it’s just a very easy to listen to album, with lyrics that will hit home exactly and it’s just nice to see Saxe back on the scene again working his magic!
‘A Grey Area’ is out now via Arista Records, check out the video for ‘Caught Up On You’ here: