J Allen
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J Allen

Brooklyn, New York, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2011 | INDIE

Brooklyn, New York, United States | INDIE
Established on Jan, 2011
Solo Folk Indie

Calendar

This band hasn't logged any future gigs

Jun
24
J Allen @ Pete's Candy Store

Brooklyn, New York, United States

Brooklyn, New York, United States

Jun
16
J Allen @ Block Island Music Festival

New Shoreham, Rhode Island, United States

New Shoreham, Rhode Island, United States

Jun
20
J Allen @ NXNE

Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Music

Press


"If you like any version of folk, country, or folk-country, you need to check out the latest release from J. Allen."

Brooklyn shouldn't be known for country-folk, but it might be after listening to the new release from J. Allen. "Bring Her Back" home is absolutely brilliant without breaking new ground.

Allen shows the vulnerability of Vic Chesnutt (which I don't say lightly) but skewing more towards the center. It's the rare release that can satisfy fans of Dylan, Jason Isbell, and Of Monsters and Men.

"Fall Out of Love" is a simple epic that brings back memories of southern school dances in the 60s I can't possibly have. Do yourself a favor and check out this release. - If it's Too Loud...


""What one hears are his earnest, strained vocals along with sometimes delicate, sometimes thrashed acoustic guitar with occasional percussion and pedal steel.""

“City life is millions of people being lonesome together" Henry David Thoreau

A member of the “spacey folk outfit” Meanwhiles. J. Allen plays all instruments on this, his solo debut. In addition he has been busy hitting the streets for field recordings which he has added to the mix in an attempt to capture the hustle and bustle of New York life. However there are no stock sounds here, no police sirens or NY “characters.” Instead the sounds he has gathered are unobtrusive, rarely noticed, abstract almost.

What one hears are his earnest, strained vocals along with sometimes delicate, sometimes thrashed acoustic guitar with occasional percussion and pedal steel. The result is a haunting collection of solitary moments in the metropolis, people lost in the midst of others. At times the album reminded me of Loudon Wainwright’s Central Square Song with its sense of wintry desolation. Despite the sparse instrumentation there are moments when the production and the playing combine to produce an epic feel which reaches a climax on the towering Rain and Thunder. - Americana UK


""Wonderfully quirky and fascinatingly wayward... J. Allen delivered most beautiful and atmospheric folk."(LaxMag.de, Germany, concert review Munich)"

Unter der Überschrift Brooklyn Dark Folk & Bedroom Epics fanden sich  J. Allen, sein Brooklyner Sangeskollege Patrick Crowson und der Münchner Liedermacher Fabio Russozusammen und beschertem dem Publikum einen Folkabend vom Feinsten.

Passend zum Titel der Veranstaltung war der Veranstaltungsort gehalten: dunkel und schummrig. Spärliche Beleuchtung mit Hilfe auf dem Boden stehender Kerzen - man kennt das von Nirvanas Unplugged - und einzelner kleiner Leuchtelemente, die zusammen mit einem bunten Mischmasch von Kunst die Wände bedeckten, lieferte hierzu die Schlafzimmer-Romantik. Inmitten dieses dämmrigen Arrangements spielten nacheinander die drei Folkmusiker.

Der Begriff Dark Folk passte am Abend am ehesten zu dem zu Beginn auftretenden Patrick Crowson. Er bediente sich der klassischen Attribute guter Folk-Musik: Gitarre und Stimme. Wobei vor allem Letztere bezeichnend für Crowsons eher uneingängige Titel ist, denn während sie sich manchmal fast unaufällig neben die Gitarre einordnete, so schraubte sich der Gesang an anderer Stelle wild nach oben, brach und schrammte hier und da haarscharf an Tönen vorbei. So entstand über Strecken eine wunderbar bizarre Disharmonie, die an Weird Folk-Größen wie Bonnie 'Prince' Billy erinnerte.

Weniger Disharmonie, leider auch etwas weniger Verschrobenheit und somit mehr Angepasstheit, hörte man beim Münchner Sangeskollegen Fabio Russo. Deutlich verträumter und melodischer ging es bei seinen Stücken zu. Mit klarer Stimme spielte er eingängigen Folk-Pop, den er teils unverstärkt und nah an der Zuhörerschaft vortug.

Auch wenn der Spruch "Das Beste kommt zum Schluss" abgenutzt ist und außerdem häufig schlicht nicht zutrifft, so beschreibt er doch treffend den Musikabend. Denn am Ende kam J. Allen. Wunderbar verdreht und faszinierend eigentümlich präsentierte sich der Musiker. Zu abgehackten, ja fast schon schrulligen Bewegungen brachte er schönsten und atmosphärischen Folk zustande. Schnell wurde klar, dass Allen eine Gabe besitzt die vielen, wenn nicht den meisten Musikern abgeht: Glaubwürdigkeit. Gefühle, ob nun Verzweiflung, Trauer oder Liebe, landeten ohne Umschweife beim Publlikum, das nach insgesamt fast drei Stunden in die Nacht entlassen wurde. Rebekka Schwarz -- LAXMAG.DE, Germany - LaxMag.de, Germany


""A wonderful, headstrong and captivating beauty of an album!" (Caleidoscoop, Netherlands, Dutch album review)"


Het zal niet de eerste en zeker niet de laatste keer zijn dat een bandlid het solo wil gaan proberen. Niet iedereen doet dat dan ook even succesvol, maar in het geval van de Amerikaanse artiest J. Allen lijkt het een meer dan logische stap, aangezien hij er totaal andere muziek mee fabriceert. Samen met zijn broer Todd richt hij namelijk ook de spacerockband Meanwhiles op, waarvan al 2 albums en 2 epees zijn verschenen. Nu gaat hij volledig solo, waarbij hij alles speelt, zingt en schrijft op zijn debuut Wonder City; het is zelfs in eigen beheer uitgegeven. Alleen de opgenomen straatgeluiden hebben een oorsprong die buiten hem ligt. J. Allen maakt overigens bepaald geen doorsnee singer-songwriterplaat album, hetgeen veel artiesten dan maken. Er zitten zeker singer-songwriterelementen in, maar Allen gooit er ook folk, psychedelica, ambient, indie, blues en lichte experimenten doorheen. De meeste nummers ademen de sfeer uit van slaapkameropnames, zeg maar de oude lo-fi, maar hij brengt overal een zekere gelaagdheid aan, waardoor alles gehuld is in een bijzondere gloed. En in alle gaten en hoeken van de muziek verstopt hij heerlijke, melancholische ingrediënten en bijzondere geluiden, die de boel nog eens iets extra’s, iets driedimensionaals en eigens meegeven. Door zijn vrij hoge zang en breekbaarheid moet ik in eerste instantie denken aan de beginjaren van Ben Christophers, waarbij het zwaarmoedige, de holheid en het rammelige van Yonlu ook doorschemert. Maar op de momenten dat hij een volledig bandgeluid aan de dag legt, roept hij ook associaties op met Radiohead. Aan de referentielijst kan je verder nog M Ward, Smog, Don McLean, (een akoestische) Masters Of Reality en qua dramatisch schrijverstalent ook Roger Waters toevoegen. Dit rijtje geeft al de eigenzinnigheid van Allen aan. Naast de paar korte songs, staat er ook een behoorlijk aantal breed uitgesponnen tracks op, waar Allen echt de tijd neemt om de muziek te laten groeien, ontwikkelen en tot een climax te laten komen. Al met al blijft het redelijk klein en intiem, waarbij hij diepe snaren weet te raken. Een wonderlijk, eigengereid en beklijvend prachtalbum!

Luister Online bij Bandcamp:
Wonder City (album)

door Jan Willem Broe -- CALEIDOSCOOP, Netherlands - Caleidoscoop, Netherlands


""Ecoutez-le avec en tête l'idée de ce que pourrait être l'infini ou la quatrième dimension. / Listen to him with an idea in mind of what could be infinity or the fourth dimension." (Music in Belgium, album review)"

Le parcours musical de Josh Allen est étroitement lié à son premier groupe Meanwhiles, expérience folk qu'il monte avec son frère Todd en 2003. Les Meanwhiles évoluent au cœur de la grouillante ville de New York, mais semblent complètement décalés par rapport à l'excitation permanente qui règne dans leur cité. Leur folk lent et onirique attire le producteur Alan Weatherhead (Sparklehorse), qui met au point avec eux leur premier album "The nights rewind" en 2005, avec le soutien vocal de la chanteuse Martha Wainwright.??J. Allen réalise lui-même en 2008 le second album des Meanwhiles, un "Slow motion summer" où figure Alan Weatherhead à la guitare steel et Nadine Khouri dans les chœurs. Après cela, J. Allen passe en solo avec un premier EP "Down the hill I dreamed" en 2010, puis ce premier album "Wonder city" qu'il réalise entièrement lui-même, de l'écriture des morceaux jusqu'à la production.??Je ne sais pas ce qui est arrivé à J. Allen, mais, en même temps, il a dû perdre toutes ses économies dans un krach boursier, se faire larguer par sa petite amie, avoir perdu ses parents dans un accident de voiture, avoir vu sa maison incendiée, s'être fait diagnostiquer un cancer et s'être fait engager de force dans la Légion Étrangère, car de la tristesse à ce point-là dans un album, on en a rarement vu. J. Allen égrène neuf chansons ralenties et rêveuses, plaintives et lardées d'un chant neurasthénique et fatigué, avec la guitare acoustique comme unique compagne.??Quand j'étais gamin, il y avait une BD appelée Les Rigolus et les Tristus. J. Allen est incontestablement un tristus, le genre qui filerait une dépression nerveuse à des régiments entiers de surfeurs blonds californiens bronzés toute l'année. Son album extrait l'auditeur de son monde contemporain fait de stress et de course contre la montre pour le placer hors du temps, au-dessus du monde, avec la perspective du ciel infini et du temps qui s'est arrêté. N'écoutez jamais cet album un jour de pluie, sinon c'est le suicide assuré. Mais écoutez-le avec en tête l'idée de ce que pourrait être l'infini ou la quatrième dimension. Vous verrez défiler de somptueux paysages jamais touchés par l'homme, vous entendrez les profondeurs de la mer vous murmurer qu'il n'y pas beaucoup de choses bien importantes dans le monde futile où nous vivons, vous trouverez devant vous des petits échantillons de repos éternel.??J. Allen a fractionné l'absolu en petits bouts, les a trempés dans un bain de désespoir et a concentré le tout dans son album, triste et beau et qui ferait passer The Cure pour une fanfare municipale savoyarde. C'est une question de goût ou d'humeur, mais"Wonder city" tour à tour vous exaspérera avec sa tristesse abyssale ou vous séduira sans limites par la grandeur de sa mélancolie.?
François Becquart -- MUSIC IN BELGIUM

Pays: US
Duct Tape Productions
Sortie: 2012/09/03
- Music in Belgium


""Allen’s ponderous vocals and gently tendered sonic atmosphere came through out of the gate, and I was hooked." (Anobium, USA, album review)"

I can usually tell that I’m going to like or not like an album within ten or fifteen seconds. While some make out music likability to an exact science, my sensibility has no pretense like this. Either I like it or I don’t. And it was the test of this theory that inspired me to try out J. Allen’s ‘Wonder City.’ I found a free download link from the Largehearted Boy blog, and testing if it was worth it, I gave a try to the first half-minute of the first track ‘O My Love.’ Allen’s ponderous vocals and gently tendered sonic atmosphere came through out of the gate, and I was hooked. Here there is a dark, psychedelic undercurrent which really comes to the fore on longer tracks like ‘Wonder City’ and ‘Rain and Thunder,’ and these are carefully—if not naively—counterbalanced by acoustically-oriented tracks, like ‘Half the Sky’ and ‘Heavy Hand.’
The record as it its best when the sonic textures run thickest, though even at its simplest moments, it still commands the listener’s attention. There is a story being told, and while there are no especially brilliant lyrical twists, the real strength of the record is upheld in what Allen withholds. This restraint prevents sophomoric flourishes and sets the tenor for what will hopefully be future installments in the Allen canon. He got my fifteen seconds, and then he got my 43 minutes, and now I’m looking forward to what’s next.
--ANOBIUM, US
- Anobium, US


""Any notion of self-whimsy and paint-by-numbers bullshit is quickly disposed of thanks to some gorgeous melodies and cracked vocals" (Gold Flake Paint, UK, introduction feature/review)"

We all know the term singer-songwriter is dead. Dragged into the depths of musical hell by Blunt, Gray et al. to the point where the simple term for someone playing a guitar and singing by themselves has become a genre to sprint away from, to batter with a short, sharp stick. Not only did those insufferable slices piss all over us and the term, they also had the cheek, the downright nerve, to confuse us all for the rest of time. We hear a song we like and then, SHOCK HORROR, it’s just a guy and a guitar. Holy fuck! What have I become?! Next I’ll be buying my socks only from Mark & Spencers, reading the Daily Mail and clapping along to pop idol, having the time of my life. But hang on, this track IS good – and weren’t Dylan and Springsteen just guys with guitars? And Strummer and Westerberg and Sam Beam and Elliott Smith and, and, and…WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?!

Hailing from New York, J. Allen describes himself as a folk singer/songwriter but any notion of self-whimsy and paint-by-numbers bullshit is quickly disposed of thanks to some gorgeous melodies and cracked vocals, all shrouded under layers of darkening ambience. His new album, Wonder City, is released at the start of September and he plays a handful of UK dates in support of it. Listen to our choice cuts from the record below and be sure to check-out the tour itinerary…


Words by Tom Johnson - GOLD FLAKE PAINT, UK - Gold Flake Paint, UK


"J. Allen: Wonder City"

From the opening swish of traffic on 'O My Love', J. Allen’s 'Wonder City' builds gently, a hymn to loneliness accentuated by the sound of a cityscape alive with people. Allen’s is a very specific type of loneliness, the type that one can only achieve when one is, paradoxically, surrounded by millions of people.

'O My Love' is a plaintiff acoustic ballad, lamenting lost love in an epic swell of emotion. The song’s intensity bubbles under the surface until it explodes after three and a half minutes into an angst-fuelled cri-de-couer which will either leave the listener scrabbling for the volume control or screaming “More! More! More!” Happily, I was in the latter camp rather than the former.

Title track 'Wonder City' opens with a sort of urban tone poem, a musical approximation of the city at its busiest and wildest before returning to the opening track’s theme of loneliness – “There’s millions of people, but no-one’s around, ” sings Allen. It’s a sentiment which, if not handled correctly, could sound glib and mawkish, but one gets the impression that Allen’s solitude has a life of its own outside the vocal booth. 'Wonder City' is 'Homeward Bound' for the instagram generation, its washed-out backgrounds painting an almost pastoral picture of a city moving in blurred frenzy while the protagonist stands still, aloof and alone.

For me, the standout track is 'Heavy Head'. It has a true bedroom recording intimacy about it and its understated performance highlights Allen’s gorgeous vocal over a straightforward acoustic guitar.

Throughout the album, Allen’s vocals are superb and his acoustic guitar-work is reminiscent in places of Nick Drake – indeed, had Drake plied his trade in early 21st century Manhattan, this is exactly the sort of album he would produce. The album’s sound design is the true star of the show, however: it is inventive and intelligent without being overwrought or pretentious.

This is Allen’s first solo effort, but he has released two full-length albums and two EPs with Meanwhiles, a project with his brother Todd. In my opinion, however, this album stands head and shoulders above Allen’s work with Meanwhiles – 'Wonder City' is very much a personal testament and a vision which Allen has shaped and realised almost single-handedly.

Wonder City is a hugely enjoyable album. Its themes are immediately recognisable to anyone who has ever felt alone and adrift in a strange city. Rather than wallowing, however, in the melancholy of such a situation, Allen celebrates loneliness and leaves the listener with the feeling that it’s maybe not so bad to be alone. - Pennyblack Music / UK


""The elegy of Allen's music is like a black box - a refuge without reference, without affliction and without torment" (Motor.de, Germany, tour presentation feature)"

Translated from German-

"Don't Call It Post-Folk! The introverted music of J. Allen

Doesn't 2012 lack in another great folk record? The American newcomer J. Allen would never raise his talented hand by himself. That's why we are
taking up the cudgels for this gentleman from New York. Folk from New York?
motor.de discovered J. Allen for you.

Our announcement was clear, direct and sudden: In 2012 nobody
should come up with the idea of proclaiming post-folk. So far neither
us have perpetrated mischievously, nor have fellows caught our eye.
That's great, since we chose our words deliberately, when we put the car in
neutral by the end of last year looking back through the drab monotony
of everyday life, as is right and proper for an end-of-year review. 2011
was folk-year. Through the likes of Justin Vernon, Fleet Foxes and Mumford
& Sons, the darling-label meantime has got its figureheads in terms of pop-cultural
relevance.

The ZEIT (German weekly high-circulation paper; translator's note)
examined the boom from a man-woman-perspective and attested
a strange sort of 'de-machofication' to the bearded anti-heroes. Those
men would be too endearing, melancholic and undecided. Just 'men of sorrows',
so to speak. The question of Grönemeyer (most successful German-language rock solo artist; t.n.),
what makes a man a man (chorus line of his famous 80s #1 hit single; t.n.), will have to be postponed.
That the simple reduction – of somewhat rock = tough, folk = soft – is flawed,
shows a young man whose music up to now hasn't been
heard much here in this country. J. Allen is New Yorker. And he's a songwriter.
Following the logics of effeminacy, the gentleman once was a duly rocker. One that has
already been compared with Neil Young, Radiohead or Sigur Rós. Right – the never-ending
chapter of laurels and their avails. Fact is: Josh forged the band 'Meanwhiles' together with his brother
Todd. Produced by Sparklehorse-sound engineer Alan Weatherhead, he demonstrated that he can go
epic. Towering rock, in search of contrast, noise encountered gentleness in a way as if its paradox was
nothing but a mirage.

Proceeding solo now and being based in New York, appears to be not an
easy augury. Or is it? Reclusive he said to be. Who is shouting cliché here?
Also, that he is purposely dedicating himself to DIY philosophy, should
on no account be written off as self-fulfilling prophecy. It's not that 'Wonder City',
his self-recorded and -produced debut album, on which he also plays all instruments,
is an ode to a mecca of sins. On the contrary, it's rather somebody who tries to
find his place with nine songs, in order to be able to catch an adequate breath.
Displaying something sad in the state of no grievance, there is not even need
to raise the m-word. In the language of J. Allen it is simply: “The Other Side of the Day”.

The young man from Brooklyn conflates micro-portions of garage and ambient into
psychedelic lo-fi. High-end studio polishing? That's not his thing. The urban filth
dwells velvety on the record and on Allen's voice, which doesn't refuse a plaintive note,
but never dissolves into plain pathos. Keeping a good safety clearance to the heroic has all along suited the singer/songwriter genre better than to curry favor with zeitgeist.
J. Allen is a songwriter, who is worth to be discovered, because while his songs might
not boast a vast range, they are yet tremendously rich in variety. Tagging him 'man-of-sorrows-folk' would be unjustified categorization. In fact, the elegy of Allen's music is like a black box -
a refuge without reference, without affliction and without torment.

Motor.de is excited to support the New Yorker multi-instrumentalist on his shortly
upcoming tour. And because we really have a high opinion on this guy, we want you
to be part of it. We are giving away 2 x 2 tickets for each concert. With a little luck
you can be a witness of the talented newcomer."
--
MOTOR.DE, Germany
- MOTOR.DE, Germany


""On dit que dans une sombre époque, l’oeil commence à voir, celui de J.Allen a un battement de cils d’avance. / They say in dark times the eye begins to see, that of J. Allen is one bat of an eyelash in advance" (Pause Musicale, France, album review))"

J. Allen a le vague à l’âme contagieux et la mélancolie abyssale au poing. Rêveries intenses où coulent les espoirs matinés de regrets, ici le temps est étiré le long des mélodies impressionnistes où bourdonnent le cafard et la solitude de la ville.
Pourtant, les neuf pistes qui composent l’album Wonder City, déconstruisent ce trop plein évident de solitude pour en faire des mélodies libres, échos souterrains des grandes villes où se frôlent les individus.
Album sombre certes, mais où le clair-obscur scintille doucement telle une luciole. Wonder City est fiévreux, tout en nuances diffuses comme tamisées.
Ici, le chant feutré de J.Allen est profondément ancré dans le paysage urbain dont il capture les sons au gré de ses balades. Les pistes en font leur coeur battant, ville de tous les délices et de tous les désarrois, tantôt écrin, tantôt tombeau.
J.Allen faisait parti avec son frère de Meanwhiles, et Wonder City est sa première aventure solo, son journal intime de folk brut aux sons envoûtants. À travers lui, un espace unique est mis à nu, son espace intime, qui s’ouvre sur le monde doucement.
Originaire de New York, l’homme est un chanteur compositeur à la voix fêlée qui sait exploiter ses sentiments et les transformer en sentier mélodique boueux, mais lumineux.
Wonder City est une déambulation initiatique, un parcours où les accidents chaotiques sont érigés en passé qui peine à être remisé en vestiges. Les lignes du présent et du passé s’entremêlent donc, s’entrechoquant quelquefois en un brouillard vaporeux où les pas de J.Allen se perdent.
Loin des regards, isolé, l’homme dépeint le monde, avec une guitare et des batteries douces. Fractures de la vie en farandole, Oh My love est une confession destinée à l’envolée anonyme.
Chuchotement des sens, continu et intense, les rêves et les espoirs s’y brisent au pied des immeubles, au bord des caniveaux, joli rivière exigue comme sur Heavy Head, Halsey St, Other Slide of The Day ou Rain and Thunder.
Là, sur Afterglow, Wonder City, les mélodies crépitent tel un disque abîmé où la guitare douce et triste se pose et accompagne le mouvement lent de la musique. Complainte de la solitude qui se dégage calmement d’un folk sombre, où la ville prend les rêves des individus ou les aide à s’accomplir. Radio Power, plus chaloupé, offre un espace de retrait avec une douceur plus tropicale.
Brouillard et échos multiples se touchent et bientôt Half The Sky clôt l’album sur une fenêtre ouverte, un ciel ténébreux au loin, un rayon de soleil frappant la vitre.
J.Allen explore les fêlures et les crevasses de la vie en pointillé, sombre mélancolie qui écorne les pages de l’existence et les jours passés. Wonder City est tout en rupture et en intensité, aux embardées délicates, au chavirement sombre mis en lumière sobrement.
On dit que dans une sombre époque, l’oeil commence à voir, celui de J.Allen a un battement de cils d’avance.
-- PAUSE MUSICALE, France - Pause Musicale, France


""A haunting collection of solitary moments in the metropolis, people lost in the midst of others." (Americana UK, album review)"

“City life is millions of people being lonesome together" Henry David Thoreau

A member of the “spacey folk outfit” Meanwhiles. J. Allen plays all instruments on this, his solo debut. In addition he has been busy hitting the streets for field recordings which he has added to the mix in an attempt to capture the hustle and bustle of New York life. However there are no stock sounds here, no police sirens or NY “characters.” Instead the sounds he has gathered are unobtrusive, rarely noticed, abstract almost.

What one hears are his earnest, strained vocals along with sometimes delicate, sometimes thrashed acoustic guitar with occasional percussion and pedal steel. The result is a haunting collection of solitary moments in the metropolis, people lost in the midst of others. At times the album reminded me of Loudon Wainwright’s Central Square Song with its sense of wintry desolation. Despite the sparse instrumentation there are moments when the production and the playing combine to produce an epic feel which reaches a climax on the towering Rain and Thunder.
--AMERICANA UK - Americana UK


""Captivating and provocative...this guy's got a killer voice... Top pick." (Baby Sue, USA, album review)"

The debut solo release from J. Allen who was previously in the space/folk band Meanwhiles. Wonder City is a different sort of album...very reserved and somewhat fragile in its overall delivery and sound. Allen's music reminds us in some ways of Hayden (the melodies are quite similar but the vocals are markedly different) and Donovan (some of the peculiar sparse arrangements remind us of A Gift From A Flower To A Garden). Allen delves into an odd world here where soft folky tunes have spooky peculiar waves of sound creeping in and out of the mix. There aren't many artists out there playing music that sounds anything like this. This is a very personal sounding album that recalls Big Star / Alex Chilton's Sister Lovers album at times. Beautifully crafted tracks include "O My Love," "Wonder City," "Heavy Head," "Other Side of the Day," and "Half The Sky." Captivating and provocative...this guy's got a killer voice... Top pick.
-- BABY SUE, US - Baby Sue, USA


""Had Nick Drake plied his trade in early 21st century Manhattan, this is exactly the sort of album he would produce." (Pennyblack Music, UK, album review)"

From the opening swish of traffic on 'O My Love', J. Allen’s 'Wonder City' builds gently, a hymn to loneliness accentuated by the sound of a cityscape alive with people. Allen’s is a very specific type of loneliness, the type that one can only achieve when one is, paradoxically, surrounded by millions of people.

'O My Love' is a plaintiff acoustic ballad, lamenting lost love in an epic swell of emotion. The song’s intensity bubbles under the surface until it explodes after three and a half minutes into an angst-fuelled cri-de-couer which will either leave the listener scrabbling for the volume control or screaming “More! More! More!” Happily, I was in the latter camp rather than the former.

Title track 'Wonder City' opens with a sort of urban tone poem, a musical approximation of the city at its busiest and wildest before returning to the opening track’s theme of loneliness – “There’s millions of people, but no-one’s around, ” sings Allen. It’s a sentiment which, if not handled correctly, could sound glib and mawkish, but one gets the impression that Allen’s solitude has a life of its own outside the vocal booth. 'Wonder City' is 'Homeward Bound' for the instagram generation, its washed-out backgrounds painting an almost pastoral picture of a city moving in blurred frenzy while the protagonist stands still, aloof and alone.

For me, the standout track is 'Heavy Head'. It has a true bedroom recording intimacy about it and its understated performance highlights Allen’s gorgeous vocal over a straightforward acoustic guitar.

Throughout the album, Allen’s vocals are superb and his acoustic guitar-work is reminiscent in places of Nick Drake – indeed, had Drake plied his trade in early 21st century Manhattan, this is exactly the sort of album he would produce. The album’s sound design is the true star of the show, however: it is inventive and intelligent without being overwrought or pretentious.

This is Allen’s first solo effort, but he has released two full-length albums and two EPs with Meanwhiles, a project with his brother Todd. In my opinion, however, this album stands head and shoulders above Allen’s work with Meanwhiles – 'Wonder City' is very much a personal testament and a vision which Allen has shaped and realised almost single-handedly.

Wonder City is a hugely enjoyable album. Its themes are immediately recognisable to anyone who has ever felt alone and adrift in a strange city. Rather than wallowing, however, in the melancholy of such a situation, Allen celebrates loneliness and leaves the listener with the feeling that it’s maybe not so bad to be alone.

-- PENNYBLACK MUSIC, UK
- Pennyblack Music, UK


"J. Allen - Wonder City"

Was andere bei ihren Homerecording-Sessions sorgsam vermeiden, nämlich störende Nebengeräusche zuzulassen oder sie wenigstens im Nachhinein herauszufiltern, gehört bei dem New Yorker J. Allen mit zum Konzept. Vinyl-Kratzer, Straßen­gräusche und das Rumpeln der lokalen Subway dienen als Kulisse für seine impressionistischen Songs, die durchdrungen sind von Einsamkeitsgefühlen, empfindsamer Nachdenklichkeit und träumerischer Zerrissenheit. Ein typischer New Yorker also, der in der Ver­gangen­heit bereits mit der Band „Meanwhiles” von sich Reden gemacht hat. „Wonder City” ist aber nicht nur ein introvertiertes Werk, sondern driftet auch schon mal ganz gerne in die geräuschvollere Alternative-Ecke ab. Im Großen und Ganzen aber konzentriert sich J. Allen auf seine scheuen und schwermütigen Kompositionen. Auf Dauer vielleicht etwas zu sehr bergab ausgerichtet. ? - SOUND AND IMAGE, DE


"J. Allen - Wonder City"


Herbst bedeutet natürlich auch weniger Sonne ergo, die Laune sinkt. Wer dazu noch den perfekten Soundtrack sucht, der sollte sich J Allen zu Gemüte führen. Motor.de ist auch schon ganz verliebt und empfahl den jungen Herren nachdrücklich und hört man sich sein aktuelles Album so an, dann ist dieser Nachdruck auch angebracht.
Hier wird sehr traditionell mit Gitarre und einigen Homestudio Spielereien so viel Atmosphäre geschaffen, dass die Major Label Produzenten verschämt die Köpfe senken.
Das Debütalbum wurde nämlich eigenhändig von Allen aufgenommen und produziert, fast fühlt man sich so als wäre man in seine Gefühlsbekundungen hinein geplatzt, im Hintergrund die Geräusche seiner Stadt, New York gibt keine Ruhe und scheint wie die perfekte Spiegelung der isolierten Intimität Allens zu sein.
Wer sich noch ein wirklich gutes Songwriter Album zulegen will, das irgendwie 90er Jeff Buckley und 70er Bob Dylan vereint und die Stadt, in der es aufgenommen wurde, perfekt wieder gibt, der sollte zugreifen.

- MUSIK BLOG, DE


"J. Allen : Wonder City"


With his solo debut "Wonder City", the American singer-songwriter J. Allen (frontman of the folk band Meanwhiles) made a concept album about the loneliness and alienation that he experiences in New York. For this theme to support it accumulates over his guitar songs layered sound that he was in the streets of New York has recorded. Where a similar design to the legendary "Rain Dogs" by Tom Waits resulted in an eclectic mash of styles and instruments, decorate J. Allen 'Wonder City "with an extremely homogeneous sound palette reminiscent of dubstep pioneer Burial: faint crackling and echoing ambient which give it a desolate and melancholy feeling. Gimmick or not, J.Allen seems determined not just another typical singer-songwriter to be. 
He has another ace in the hole: dynamics. Outside acoustic guitar, vocals and city noises "Wonder City" also electric guitar, drums, strings and organ. This wealth of tools used J. All his songs to slow and intense build. So start "Oh My Love", "Halsey St ' and "Rain and Thunder" relatively modest, but degenerate after a brooding build a legged, elongated climax which sometimes tends to grunge. The title track and "Radio Tower" also flirting with grunge by their alternation between modest and hard-hitting pieces, and have many tempo changes that already nuanced dynamics further to the fore. 
Still sounds 'Wonder City' not half as exciting as hoped. J. Allen has namely the tics of a banal singer-songwriter: saltless rhythms, predictable guitar chords and thin, drawling vocals that too often seeks out the pathos. That cocktail of mediocrity reaches a poignant climax in "Other Side of the Day 'and closer' Half the Sky ': stripped-nothings who demonstrate J. Allen can not take root with just guitar and voice. "Heavy Head" seems similar fate, but is eventually rescued by a serene, nostalgic arrangement of organ and horns that the quieter work of The National reminiscent. 
That J. Allen has more to offer, proves he 'Afterglow', the undisputed highlight of the album and the only time the 'Wonder City' which the oppressing city sounds really come into their own. Together with a hypnotic acoustic guitar loop, vocal harmonies and echoing drums form a stark fever dream perfectly the nocturnal solitude barrel in New York. 'Afterglow' as proves that the concept of 'Wonder City' alright, but that J. Allen not gouge  had this concept thoroughly implement the rest of the album. When he finds the courage to do so, he is someone to be reckoned with.


Met zijn solodebuut ‘Wonder City’ heeft de Amerikaanse singer-songwriter J. Allen (frontman van de folkband Meanwhiles) een conceptalbum gemaakt over de eenzaamheid en vervreemding die hij ervaart in New York. Om die thematiek te ondersteunen stapelt hij boven zijn gitaarsongs laagjes geluid die hij in de straten van New York heeft opgenomen. Waar een soortgelijke opzet op het legendarische ‘Rain Dogs’ van Tom Waits resulteerde in een eclectische brij van stijlen en instrumenten, verfraait J. Allen ‘Wonder City’ met een uiterst homogeen klankenpallet dat doet denken aan dubsteppionier Burial: vage, knisperende en galmende ambient die het geheel een desolaat en melancholisch gevoel geeft. Gimmick of niet, J. Allen lijkt vastbesloten om niet de zoveelste typische singer-songwriter te zijn. 
Hij heeft nog een andere troef achter de hand: dynamiek. Buiten akoestische gitaar, zang en stadsgeluiden bevat ‘Wonder City’ ook elektrische gitaar, drums, strijkers en orgel. Die rijkdom aan instrumenten gebruikt J. Allen om zijn songs langzaam en intens op te bouwen. Zo starten ‘O My Love’, ‘Halsey St.’ en ‘Rain and Thunder’ relatief bescheiden, maar ontaarden ze na een broeierige opbouw in een potige, uitgerekte climax die meer dan eens naar grunge neigt. De titeltrack en ‘Radio Tower’ flirten eveneens met grunge door hun afwisseling tussen ingetogen en snoeiharde stukken, en kennen talrijke tempowisselingen die de reeds genuanceerde dynamiek verder in de verf zetten. 
Toch klinkt ‘Wonder City’ nog niet half zo opwindend als gehoopt. J. Allen heeft namelijk de tics van een banale singer-songwriter: zoutloze ritmes, voorspelbare gitaarakkoorden en ijle, lijzige zang die al te vaak het pathos opzoekt. Die cocktail van de middelmaat bereikt een schrijnend hoogtepunt in ‘Other Side of the Day’ en afsluiter ‘Half the Sky’: uitgeklede niemendalletjes die aantonen dat J. Allen niet kan beklijven met enkel gitaar en stem. ‘Heavy Head’ lijkt eenzelfde lot beschoren, maar wordt uiteindelijk gered door een sereen, nostalgisch arrangement van orgel en blazers dat aan het rustigere werk van The National doet denken. 
Dat J. Allen meer in zijn mars heeft, bewijst hij op ‘Afterglow’, het onbetwiste hoogtepunt van het album en het enige moment op ‘Wonder City’ waarop de beklemmende stadsgeluiden daadwerkelijk tot hun recht komen. Samen met een hypnotiserende akoestische gitaarloop, meerstemmige zang en galmende drums vormen ze een grimmige koortsdroom die perfec - KWADRATUUR, NL


Discography

'Worry Not' - 12 inch vinyl, CD, Digital Dowload - ALTCO RECORDINGS, Austin, TX

'Bring Her Back Home' - 7 inch - limited edition vinyl single -  'Bring Her Back Home' / 'L.B.C.' - ALTCO RECORDINGS, Austin, TX

'Fall Out of Love' - Bridstone Records (DE) - Independent Celebration Volume 1

Videos, 2015 -  Live via Record New York - ' Bring Her Back Home', 'Fall Out of Love', 'L.B.C.'

Wonder City - Full Length CD 

Videos/Singles - 'O My Love', Afterglow', 'Other Side of the Day', 'Heavy Head', 'Rain and Thunder Live at Music Star, with Ruban Byrne' (Norderstedt, DE), 'Wonder City - Live L'an Vert' (Liege, Belgium ), 'Other Side of the Day' - Live L'an Vert' (Liege, Belgium ), 'Afterglow - Live in London' - Gallery Cafe - London

With Meanwhiles-

Slow Motion Summer - Full Length CD

Videos/Singles - 'Tell Me How it Ends', 'Whenever You Need Me'

The Nights Rewind - Full Length CD

Videos/Singles - 'Long Walk Home' - featuring Martha Wainwright and Alan Weatherhead, 'Wake in Place'

www.jallenmusic.com

Photos

Bio

J. Allen's songs are folk songs written inside the whirlwind that is New York City... country hymns tuned in to the traffic hum and the subway rumble.

Tinges of Ryan Adams and Arlo Guthrie haunt Allen's new debut record with Altco Music, a heartfelt, folksy offering called 'Worry Not'.  The album marks a turn from the atmospheric, indie-folk aesthetic of his previous work to a more traditional American palette, as well as a renewed collaboration with Alan Weatherhead (Magnolia Electric Company, Sparklehorse) as mixer, arranger and multi-instrumentalist.   The modern-country track 'Fall Out of Love' has recently been featured on the latest Birdstone Records compilation (DE) . American and Canadian shows begin this spring, as well as video launches via Record NY.

'What one hears are his earnest, strained vocals along with sometimes delicate, sometimes thrashed acoustic guitar with occasional percussion and pedal steel.' - Americana UK

J. Allen is also the songwriter and founding member of Brooklyn's bare knuckled, indie outfit Meanwhiles. In early 2010, finding himself newly unsigned he wrote, recorded and mixed what would become his first ever solo release, 'Wonder City'.  The introspective, home recorded LP brought rave reviews from the indie press and sent Allen on his most expansive tour to date including stops at The Reeperbahn Festival (DE), Rural Indie Camp (IT), and Canadian Music Week as well as opening slots for The Wedding Present.

In his time with Meanwhiles, J. Allen and his brother Todd recorded 2 full length albums, 2 eps and travelled across the US and Europe, sharing stages with the likes of Martha Wainwright and Dean and Britta and Paul Kimble (Grant Lee Buffalo). Their debut album, 'The Nights Rewind' features Wainwright singing harmony vocal with Allen, and was also produced alongside Alan Weatherhead.  In late 2006 it was released by Decoder Records in Germany and the band began touring in earnest. Meanwhiles recorded and released their second LP, 'Slow Motion Summer' in 2009.  The album marked a move towards more stripped down sound, with Weatherhead again lending pedal steel and orchestral samples to the mix and the London songwriter Nadine Khouri adding a haunting vocal to  'Dreams from the Underground'.

Band Members