Known for his over-the-top presentation and passion for animation, the Alberta, Canada, independent musician Jayden Wark winds us through the dark thoughts in his head on his second studio album, The Vision is Dead. It is an album that should be considered an artistic triumph and Wark’s most ambitious offering to date. Across its nine songs, the first eight of which tie into a larger narrative, Wark finds a way to include pop punk distortion, electronic soundscapes and theatrical voices all together for an experience that uncovers more layers with each listen.
The curtains for this bombastic rock opera opens with “What’s In His Head?,” to which I can answer with “probably an IDK How But They Found Me song.” Its bouncy rhythm contrasted with lyrics leaning towards the slightly morose is cool to hear. I also found many flavors of Green Day in the guitar work, with the tone bearing a close resemblance to American Idiot. “Dance Your Life Away” builds off of an electronic intro into something more like pop punk and maybe even a dance punk band like Franz Ferdinand. Chunks of more brickwalled guitar connect with crispy snares that pop at just the right frequency.
After the first two songs are over, the songs become a lot longer and more adventurous. It all begins with “At Home,” where the emphasis on Wark’s emotionally wrought vocals is made quite clear. Accompanied by spacious harmonic layers and synths, “At Home” accomplishes all that it strives to be. “Slip Away (Maybe…)” starts out with twinkling arpeggiators and snap-crackle-pop percussion. I thought that this was one of the most pronounced electronic flourishes on this set of nine songs. Despite the upbeat, punk-ish nature of this track, it nonetheless has a crash-and-burn type of ending.
The record suddenly becomes very twee with the acoustic-meets-glockenspiel number, “Mr. Dusky.” It may sound innocent musically, but make no mistake, it is still a lyrically depressing centerpiece of The Vision is Dead. Additionally, “Everything We Know…,” aside from having a much, much longer title than what I’m referring to it as, is an impressive continuation of Wark’s unique songwriting.
Across echoes of snare drums and ethereal keyboards, Wark concludes the conceptual arc of his second album with its rather apocalyptic title track “The Vision is Dead.” This, like all the others that came before it, is theatrical and very expansive. I cannot suggest any other way to end this album, really. Of course, technically the bonus track, “Country Boy In The Sky,” is the actual closer to the album, but with this being a novelty song about a cowboy-turned-pilot, I understand why this is relegated to “bonus track” status, even if it is super catchy and well-done.
I find Wark’s various sonic hat tricks absolutely enthralling. Plus, even though I couldn’t piece together the narrative of the album and what it meant, I found that his lyrics were well-crafted and eloquently balanced between light and dark. Musical theatre is admittedly not my biggest interest, but Jayden Wark’s second album, The Vision is Dead, leaves a lasting impact. Highly recommended.