There aren’t many Maine musicians as prolific as Zach Jones. The Portland-based pianist, guitarist, vocalist and songwriter has been a part of nearly 20 albums, five of them solo records, and for six years was a member of As Fast As, the Spencer Albee-fronted alt-rock band. Since that band called it quits in 2009, Jones, 32, has released three solo albums, including his genre-switching 2012 “Things Were Better,” a warm, buttery, winningly relaxed r&b record inspired by the 1960s and early 1970s, and a departure from the more strictly rock-based sound he’d traditionally embraced with previous efforts.
Jones is getting ready to release the follow-up to “Things Were Better,” another soulful effort titled “The Days,” due out on Tuesday, Dec. 17. It’s a continuation of the things found on his last album, but with a little more pop, and a lot more personal reflection.
“I wanted to continue exploring the sounds of the 60’s, but I didn’t want to lock myself into just soul music this time around. Instead I wrote pop songs, rock songs, r&b songs, and instrumental pieces,” said Jones. “The whole album is strung together with a narrative about making transitions in life. It deals with personal reflection, relationships, and our perception of time; how we look at the past, what we expect from our futures, and how we live in the now.”
Indeed, “The Days” is sprinkled with swinging 60’s melodies and instrumentation, like the spritely horns on “Not Meant To Be” or the wistful breakup tale “Go It Alone,” both homages as much to Paul McCartney’s most buoyant songs (or the best moments of the Monkees) as it is contemporary psych-pop. Acoustic guitar figures prominently, too, like on the heartfelt “Why Pretend,” and string arrangements and male-female harmonies weave themselves throughout the album’s nine songs. But that soul/r&b sound doesn’t stray too far; opener “That Time Again” crests on a Bill Withers-esque slow-groove, while “Time For A Change” locks into an irresistible Motown-like beat.
Jones said he kept the same experimental attitude with “The Days” as he did with “Things Were Better” – exploring the sounds of the 1960s and 70s, and seeing if he could capture something of it on record.
“I realized that part of what I love so much about those old records is not just the great songs contained on them, but also the way they sound. I was curious if it would be possible to make a brand new record sound like a 60’s record even though we only have more modern recording equipment at our disposal. I wanted to try and follow the old school recording process as closely as possible.”
Jones can trace his obsession with the 1960s as far back as his preteen years, when he was growing up in York, with a musical mother and an upright piano in the living room. He recalled the day that his family bought a new turntable as a foundational day in his musical life.