Judah and the Lion’s album Pep Talks is their ultimate experimental project


I’ve been a Judah and the Lion fan for quite some time now, and what never fails to impress me is their continued ability to adapt to modern music trends while still keeping their roots firmly planted in the folk and rock genre.

Their most recent release Pep Talks is nothing short of incredible, with each of the seventeen songs on the album being more unique than the last. As easy as it would’ve been to get stuck in a rut with seventeen songs of the exact same sound, the band truly outdid themselves in creative energy and experimentation all throughout the album, delving into several new genres of music to give fans a taste of the band’s infinite potential. Beyond what they could invent, the album also features artists like Kacey Musgraves and Jon Bellion, each of whom infused a little piece of their style into the music as well.

The calamity of the album made for a roller coaster ride of excitement and intrigue as they dabbled in the extremes of other genres, and while every song isn’t a hit and some may make you inwardly cringe, the album perfectly captures the zeitgeist of the nineties, early 2000s, and even modern day. The song “sportz” is somewhat of a period piece that is reminiscent of the nineties with grunge rock sweeping the nation. A song screamed at the top of the band’s lungs, it seemed harshly angry sounding, but it’s also somewhat of an invigorating anthem, similar to “Mr. Brightside.”

Harnessing the essence of rock and the nineties may seem to be a difficult feat, but Judah and Lion proved their prowess through showcasing the nineties again in the song “17,” which is somewhat of a satirical piece about the ridiculous complications of being a teenager all through the lens of alternative rock.

However, this experimentation isn’t without its faults. In their search for nailing every genre’s extremes, they fell short on the song “Don’t Mess With My Mama,” and it admittedly is ridiculously overproduced with no brakes to keep the song from driving right off a cliff. It is the sound of chaos with too many elements overshadowing each other and steamrolling over the idea of keeping a common thread of conscientious thought.

Another unfortunately failed song from my perspective is “Family/Best Is Yet To Come,” and I personally don’t love the idea of having voicemail clips featured in songs as it represents something more personal and not necessarily meant to be shared with the world. It felt like forced and feigned sincerity to put that in, and I felt that as a listener, it wasn’t my place to hear the tear-stained words of the girl on the phone.

To the relief of fans who adore their original tone of folk and rock, the band sparingly released songs like “Quarter-Life Crisis,” “Over my head,” and “Alright (frick it!),” with each simply following their typical patterns. For those who don’t like change, these few songs were a savior, but for those who grow bored of routine, they were snoozefests waiting to happen.

On the opposite end of the spectrum from rock, grunge, and indie are the more lyrical, romantic crooning in songs like “pictures” feat. Kacey Musgraves. The beautiful simplicity of the song speaks for itself, and to accompany the raw voices of Musgraves and lead singer Judah Akers were strokes of piano, strums of guitars, and picks of the banjo. Each element successfully pulled the song together to create this bittersweet sound of love lost, having a bridge of the heartbreaking line of “I hate that I have to take your pictures off the wall.”

On the same genre of romantic tones, “Queen Songs/human” is based around the piano and banjo picking, creating a warm, all-encompassing noise. The connectivity of every verse and instrument comes off as an extended jolt of a buzzing feeling, making the song like a wall of sound. Mid-song, ditching the strained vocal cords of their lead singer, morphs into a purely instrumental piece that is somehow able to carry the weight of emotion and the words even without the power of a singer to voice the words that are just within reach. What’s even more beautiful is the way it ends, slowing stripping away each instrumental until the last beat resounds and the song closes out.

To end on a more uplifting note, my favorite of the album is definitely “Passion Fashion” feat. Jon Bellion. The collaboration of Jon Bellion and Judah and the Lion is utterly iconic, and together, they created music that is not unlike that of AJR, another alternative band. While it definitely had the most pop vibe to it, I love it because of all the different layers to the sound, between warbled sound, banjo features, yelled lyrics, and the electronic sound infused in the song.

With the first act like Pep Talks, how will Judah and the Lion top it in their next release, whenever that is?

However, no matter what direction they choose to go in the future, the band has just proved to fans and to the world that they are completely capable of dominating any music genre of their choosing.