If folk music is about depth and delicacy and indie music excels at accessibility and infectiousness, then it is safe to say that I Don’t Want To Stay, the debut release from Jeremy Engel, walks a perfect line between the two camps.
The folk vibes are perfect for such a sensitive song. On the surface, it seems to be about leaving a relationship, about moving on about and looking to the future rather than the past. But given that, at least some of the inspiration for it comes from the passing of a loved one, perhaps it is also filled with ideas of the inevitability, of the passing of time and that we shouldn’t hang on what has gone before, especially when life offers us only a short opportunity to embrace the world around us.
And that is the joy of music, it is up to the listener to derive the meaning, even if the writer is describing very specific and intimate events, lyrics are all in their interpretation. Whichever meaning you chose, or even if you find your own message between those lines, it is a cool song.
Made all the cooler by the fact that Engel takes this sonic folk heartbeat and wraps it in a more lilting and gently infectious indie sheen, not easy given the power and poignancy that lies at the heart of the music. But it is a masterful card to play. Guitars slowly groove and chime, violins ebb and flow through the gaps between and a gentle beat keeps everything moving along.
And it comes with a gorgeous video, one loaded with meaning; the freedom of the open road, the driving away from home, the woman looking reflectively from the window, stop signs, Chinese lanterns in the night and reminders of the past. Deep, meaningful, coded and cinematic.
If you want to hear the sound of the singer-songwriter genre moving forward without having to reinvent itself, without employing studio tricks or technical gizmo’s to refresh the sound, then this is it. I Don’t Want To Stay sounds part of the modern world because Jeremey Engel is part of the modern world. The singer-songwriter format may be long-established but it is reborn anew by people injecting their own personality into the mix, by artists preferring to look to the future rather than rest on the nostalgic glories of the past. This artist in general and this song, in particular, is the sound of that process in action.