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A Look at Jiaozi’s EP

Hendrick Xiong-Calmes, '18, co-Editor-in-Chief

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Largely attributed to the work of the one and only Jack Hontz, Strath Haven’s music program has an extensive and illustrious legacy that is simply one of a kind. The orchestra, symphonic and marching band, the camerata, cantata, silvertones and jazz bands have all been recognized time and time again for their outstanding musical performance. That being said, it is only understandable that year-after-year, students with independent music ideas create audible works of art for the rest of the school and the world to listen to. Last year saw the likes of AJ Beliville’s For My Future Wife and Noah Mendell’s iPod Boy. This year, a similar phenomena occured; members of the senior class released their own music.  Seniors Emma Lee, Kevin Stabinski, Kyle Nerz, and Reid Rothman collaborated together under the moniker of Jiaozi to create seven electropop tunes on their debut Perspectives.

The album art shows many objects on strings as the camera looks outward to a window that shows nothing more than a backyard in typical suburbia. It wonderfully foreshadows the content of album, being about the aspects of youth and the emotions and turmoil that typically accompany growing older.

I threw the EP on shuffle, so it’s going to be reviewed in the order in which I listened to them. Perspectives, released on January 26th, is a musical journey with clear EDM (electronic dance music) influences that begins with the unquestionably existential Intro. The spoken-word track features the voices of the bandmates taking their own take on perspectives as a whole. It’s introspective and it’s thought-provoking, and reminds me specifically of the artist Said the Sky.

A quite sombre track, Rush reflects on the costs of having fun in one’s adolescence. Emma sings quietly about a sense of despair and misdirection in the midst of all the fun that one has in their lives. It’s definitely one of the more downcast songs on the EP.

Seven7een starts out great, with a jiving piano introduction that is carried throughout the rest of track, and quickly drums into the body of the tune. Emma expertly navigate herself between the electronic breakdowns of the song, working with the celebratory production to create an ultimately carefree song. I can more than easily see myself driving down the highway to this song; it’s a great listen if you’re into EDM.

My personal favorite off of the EP is State of Mind. The introduction and body of the track is built upon guitar strums and drumstick clacks, that build to an interlude that reintroduces the introductory guitar strums. The lyrics talk about how stuck one can find themself, and how lost you can get when looking to the future. I hold a lot of empathy towards this track; it sings about a state of mind that everyone holds as a senior in high school, not quite being sure what the next step is.

Mildhood is a phenomenal track. The singers find themselves on top of the world on this track, feeling okay and being content with the world. There are a couple of references to classic video games like Pokemon and The Legend of Zelda in there, too. As an avid player of Pokemon, I definitely appreciated this little throw-in. Especially with the tone of voice Emma holds in this song, I began to recognize the similarity to Khalid’s music. If you’ve never listened to Khalid’s music, you’re truly missing out. Khalid sings about all the intricacies of adolescence, whether it be falling in and out of love, or getting into trouble. I was actually completely opposed to listening to Khalid’s Location, knowing how popular it had become. I have noticed a similar tone of voice behind the lyrics of Jiaozi’s Perspectives and Khalid’s American Teen, although the Jiaozi has a heavy influence upon EDM. It was during my second or third listen of Mildhood that I truly realized the thematic connection. More than anything, I truly commend this song’s lyricism; it truly paints a picture of the mentality in Emma’s line “I can see the clouds go by with the planes up in the sky, everything is full of smiles and the world’s adventure goes for miles.” It’s a phenomenal line.

Natalie initially appears as an acoustic track, but swiftly transitions into a love song of dependence and adoration for the title’s namesake. It’s a sweet song, and the lyricism is what truly carries the weight of this song. It’s the perfect definition of an EDM influenced singer-songwriter track.  

What struck me initially about The Next Time is its downcast tone. I initially expected a lot from it, seeing as time and time again, the last song in an albums tracklist typically has immense weight. This is rings true, from Sara Bareilles’ 2010 album Kaleidascope Heart with the heartbreaking Bluebird, to SZA’s 2017 breakthrough album Ctrl. It’s a song that’s entirely self-consolation about something or someone lost. The song balances itself between short echos of the vocals and progressive details of how the protagonist wants to feel okay. It’s a sombre way to end the EP, but it’s understandable, seeing as the future after knowing someone is scary, but approaches nonetheless.

Overall, Perspectives is immensely successful EP, and covers the theme of perspectives very successfully. The tone shifts constantly throughout the tracklist, but it never loses that sense of reverie, and has clear evidence of Kevin’s production style. I compared it to many other artists, such as Khalid or Said the Sky, but it just goes to show that Jiaozi is a legitimate artist to look at. The production is skillful and the lyricism is stylistically simple but has immense weight. Seeing as this is a starting point for the band, I truly look forward to what the band has coming in the future.

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A Look at Jiaozi’s EP