Published Oct 10, 2014Probably best known as the freewheeling frontman for French house trio dOP, JAW (aka Jonathan Illel) has never been afraid to challenge audiences and disrupt expectations. Working mostly outside of the comfortable confines of tech-house, Midtown is a frisky romp across genres, with the charismatic singer and 19 collaborators bouncing between sedate French pop, late night R&B numbers and other simmering beats. The diversity found on Midtown could be seen as a lack of focus, but instead JAW uses the different moods and rhythms of the tracks to stretch his approach to his vocals and force anyone familiar with his work with dOP or Les Fils du Calvaire to reevaluate their notions of the singer.
Tracks like the slow-burning "You" with his dOP bandmates, Brodinski's "Love Me" and the stripped back "Talking Lonely" by Steve Smyth let the maverick singer work the outer reaches of genres and weave together his tales of love, loss and unchecked passion. With so many producers contributing to Midtown, there are obvious missteps, like the unfortunate excursion into pedestrian funk on "When the Night" or the Cassius-produced shambolic rock of "Rose Leaves." Despite some detours that weaken the overall impact of the album, Midtown brings a charm and playfulness that can't be ignored. (Circus Company)