The first thing I noticed about Jockey was how young they look. Initially, I thought they were high schoolers, but the number of tattoos on their arms suggested otherwise. I caught the second half of their set from the balcony at Trees in Deep Ellum this past October, and I credited their juvenile appearance to the distance from the stage. Since then, I’ve seen them twice more, both times at a much closer distance, and I can confirm the reason they look so young is because they are young – not high schoolers, sure, but just barely. That being said, their boyish guise is not to be underestimated. Jockey’s sound has a maturity that belies the X’s on the backs of their hands, elevating them from merely a rowdy garage band to one capable of captivating an audience.
The Denton band’s first full length album, Bleak and Colorful, is a striking debut into the emo scene, featuring five original songs in addition to three re-recorded tracks from their previous EPs. Bleak and Colorful anchors itself within the influences of punk, melodic hardcore, and midwest emo in an energetic, unyielding surge that puts Jockey on the map of bands to watch out for.
The re-recorded tracks are more or less the same as they appeared on the pre-existing EPs, though here they are welcomed by a higher production value. Vocals are more polished, snares are clearer, and melodies are slightly more distinguished. The tempo of “Too Much, Never Enough” in its reincarnation is slowed down just a hair, among other minute tweaks on the album that refine rather than sanitize their prior work.
Underground idols Title Fight have undeniably left an imprint on the band, informing both their songwriting and stage presence. “Painter’s Tape” and “Lake By Your House” create an atmosphere vaguely reminiscent of Shed in their vocal deliveries and arrangements, though the similarities read more as citations of a reference than an intention to imitate. The most recent time I saw Jockey live, they covered Title Fight’s “27.” It felt like the performance served the band more than the audience; the cover seemed to be a way for Jockey to pay respects to their elders, to whom they clearly feel indebted. This admiration is likewise etched throughout the album, paying homage to an inspiration without sacrificing the creation of a unique sound.
Bleak and Colorful is like an extensive works cited page, documenting elements from various sources to build its own claim. “2009 Toyota Yaris” recalls Tigers Jaw’s self-titled album in its sentimental lyrics and instrumentation, while the intro to “San Antonio Dog Fight” salutes emo revival acts like Indian Summer. Of the new tracks, “Corduroy” is probably my favorite, invoking Nirvana’s Nevermind with angsty guitar riffs and a Kurt Cobain-esque vocal tone. “Serrated” is another standout, providing a rewardingly singable chorus for the album’s final song.
Jockey’s first album is a noteworthy debut into the local emo scene. These guys have a vision, and they have the chops to execute it. What’s even more exciting, though, is the potential this band has to become something extraordinary. In a perfect world, I would love to see Jockey collaborate with Will Yip, the producer behind a dizzying amount of career defining albums from bands including Title Fight, Turnover, Turnstile, Citizen, and Tigers Jaw, just to name a few. Jockey has already created something great, and it’s thrilling to think about what they could be capable of with a few additional resources.
My favorite songs on Bleak and Colorful are the ones I’m already familiar with, whether it’s from listening to the EPs or seeing them live, but that’s likely credited to having spent more time with them. The new tracks pack just as powerful a punch, chucking the listener into an impressive concoction of musical influences that have yielded something wholly original. If you have the opportunity to catch Jockey live around DFW, take it, and throw them 20 bucks for a t-shirt while you’re there. I have a feeling in a couple years, when you overhear the guy next to you at a show bragging about getting into a band “before they blew up,” he’ll be talking about Jockey.