Album Review - Jascha Vs. Jascha: Songs of Dreams for a Wakeful Mind

Folk-pop, down-tempo philosophical musing, romantic longing and infectious harmonies all find their place on A Cure for Sleep, by San Francisco musician Jascha Vs. Jascha. Lead singer-songwriter Jascha Hoffman has a sweet voice that he uses to pronounce each syllable with great accuracy, and this debut album will satisfy listeners with its impressive variety of styles. His music brings to mind that of little-known Saddle Creek Records band Son, Ambulance His tender voice and story-telling sensibility, with its sad slant but still driving music, is similar to that of the Nebraska band.

With topics like the greed of God in “Some Hungry Guy”, one’s shifting idea of family as one grows up in “Too Young”, and the attachment one keeps to past lovers on “Phonograph” and “Curse”, Hoffman certainly has a lot on his wakeful mind. Hoffman's focus on vocals puts an interesting twist on Delta blues legend Robert Johnson's originally guitar-heavy song "Phonograph"--the slower pace and subdued music allows one to better appreciate the lyrics. The song features a fascinating operatic interlude, an experimental moment which highlights Hoffman’s laudable ability to merge genres. “Mirror” features a catchy chorus that is easy to sing along with, and a sweeping orchestral bridge.

The standout track is “Corydon”, for the song’s emotional poignancy. On it, Hoffman sings “Oh you who are young, consider the snow drifts. White as God’s own ribs”. Although this imparting of wisdom is a somewhat unexpected metaphor, Hoffman always makes his strange statements completely believable, if still dreamlike. The song is based on a poem by D.A. Powell, about the homosexual shepherd Corydon made famous by Virgil. Although this source of inspiration may seem obscure, it makes more sense considering that Hoffman is a Harvard grad and literature enthusiast. The album is enhanced by beautiful string arrangements, and backing vocals, drums, bass, guitars and percussion by Bay Area artist Jesse Olsen. He is another young artist to watch out for musically, as he founded Deconstruct My House, an organization that showcases "experimental, politically engaged music-centered creative work".

A Cure for Sleep came about as a result of Hoffman blogging about his nightmare—already Hoffman is taking an experimental approach to his next effort. He is encouraging feedback of early versions of his songs on his website and Facebook, so that his songs are partially formed by music listeners themselves.

-Shauna C. Keddy