On Record – Jonah Yano: Portrait Of A Dog (Innovative Leisure)

by Ben Hogwood

What’s the story?

Born in Hiroshima but based in Montreal, Jonah Yano has been exploring his family history and making sense of his identity. This has been realised in musical form, through a solo album made with frequent collaborators BADBADNOTGOOD.

Yano used the songwriting process to make an intimate piece of work bringing his feelings on his Japanese-Canadian heritage to the fore, while examining family dynamics and personal relationships. Here he is aided by extended solo contributions from his bandmates, and some spoken word clips adding a domestic feel to proceedings..

What’s the music like?

Chilled in the first instance – but definitely rewarding the listener who wants to go deeper into the source material.

On the surface it is easy to admire the resultant sounds from this album. Chief among these is Yano’s velvety voice, a versatile instrument equally effective in soul or jazz. He is backed by thoroughly convincing instrumental parts, too – chief among them some superb drumming from Alexander Sowinski and fluent piano from Felix Fox-Pappas that determine the momentum generated in each track. Both combine in some of the strong solos, while Leland Whitty‘s guitar and saxophone contributions to Haven’t Haven’t stand out.

Always has a searching intimacy, especially when the lyrics make themselves clear. “The way you made me feel is the opposite of caring”, sings Yano in one verse, though by the time the piano takes over for an extended solo, things feel right with the world again.

Song About The Family House is deeply felt, an intimate aside to the listener, while a cover of Vashti Bunyan’s Glow Worms is suitably evocative. Guests Slauson Malone and Sea Oleena both acquit themselves well, with subtle contributions to In Sun, Out of Sun and Quietly, Entirely respectively. The latter has a beautiful introduction, with layers of murmured vocals like the wind in the trees.

Does it all work?

In the main, though occasionally Yano’s voice feels a bit understated in the mix – on headphones at least. The instrumental cameos are sensitively handled and complement the mood of each song.

Is it recommended?

It is. Portrait Of A Dog proves to be an engaging and personal work, featuring some rather special instrumental contributions. Definitely worth a spin.



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