Indie New York artist James Pratley Watson is releasing his debut album today.
The incredible album, titled How To Pronounce Jxst J, arrived Friday, pulling from a wide scope of musical inspiration, recording from the confines of his New York City apartment.
To celebrate the record's release, Watson is diving into the album a little deeper and giving Variance a track-by-track. Hear the album below, followed by the track-by-track.
1. IN THE TUB (INTRO)
Intro track. I wanted this to feel like something you’d find on an old cassette in a dusty attic in Ibiza. The phrase “in the tub” is something I thought of during quarantine to represent being in the zone, in my feels, alone and in a place of creative freedom. That feeling was what I was chasing while making this album, it’s a special place that I think every artist knows.
This is the first song I wrote and produced as Jxst J. It’s based off a keyboard loop I made a while back, but the rest of it I finished in a manic 2 days with my laptop and a USB mic. I released it in 2018 and then took it down. I’ll get messages every now and then from fans asking where it is and where they can hear it. I’m so glad it’s back out in the world now.
The 1 and only house-inspired track on the album. I wrote and recorded it in 2020 while—like many of us—I was yearning for intimacy in an isolated time. I really hope to see this get played on the dance floor in the post-covid world.
I wrote the lyrics to this song almost exclusively while taking bike rides in Brooklyn over the summer. There was something about the movement that allowed me to work things out until they felt as easy as a bike ride on a sunny day.
5. LIKE U USED 2
The demo for this was like a full octave too high, I sounded like a mouse fighting for air. I brought it down into a more reasonable register and started working with my producer friend Brian Green to get it into a more relaxed, pop vibe but with big sounds and spacious textures. It was my first foray into making my stuff more pop, it was uncomfortable at first but then the track started feeling and sounding larger than life and I imagined an arena full of people singing along and I was like “Oh, that’s why people do this.”
6. THREW IT ALL AWAY
This is one of my favorite tracks on the album, it’s about watching a friend change over the years, and saying all the things you wish you could say to them. After hearing the song one of my friends put it nicely, saying that it felt like Summer turning into Fall.
7. IN THE TUB
This is the lyric version of the intro track. The words and melody just came out as a kind of declaration of what I believed in and where I was at towards the end of making the album. I had grown and gone through a lot over those last few years and I was feeling stronger than ever. There will always be things that haunt me, but now I feel equipped to deal with them rather than let them take over.
One of the few tracks I’ve written from the point of view of a hypothetical character. I was imagining this sleazy guy coming to terms with who he was and confessing what he’s done. He doesn’t ask for forgiveness, but you get this hopeful sense in the chorus that he’s a changed man. The production on this one is wild. I had built up all these layers on the track, then halfway through mixing I pulled it out to strip some of the layers and add new ones. If you listen closely there’s really no dead space in the track, every moment is filled with some keyboard or percussive texture.
9. MISS AMERICA
I love the keyboard and drum sounds on this one, it’s a combo of my Juno-106 and Moog SubPhatty, along with a simple beat I programmed on my SP1200. Then Brian Green came in and added all this intricate percussion. This one is also from the point of view of a fictional character. It’s about someone who puts too much stock in the idea of America showing them the way to a righteous life. Ultimately they are let down, singing “you’re love isn’t free, your love’s not for me”.
10. CAN’T CHANGE U
I was listening to a lot of the late JUICE WRLD and XXXTENTACION when making this. It’s so sad that we lost 2 young geniuses in such terrible ways, and in such a short amount of time. I was taking cues from X’s incredible, powerful, minimalistic production and Juice’s confessional, heartbreaking lyrics. The most powerful inspiration through was going through a breakup in my own life. I realized that the person I was with was never going to change for the better. They had addiction problems and family problems that I empathized with deeply, but I got caught up in thinking that I could be the one to change them. It was heartbreaking to face the fact that It wasn’t up to me to make them change, and that it wasn’t even appropriate for me to want them to change, since they were their own person with their own path. It felt incredibly cathartic to sing on this track, and still makes me well up thinking about doing the takes. To me this song is a testament to how powerful and direct music can be in processing emotions, it helped me get to the crux of what I was feeling without having to explain it to anyone, I just had to sing from my heart.