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ep review: house parade

House Parade is the latest release from indie-folk artist Jordie Saenz, whose soothing vocals and ethereal melodies combined with raw, emotional lyrics could transport any listener to a place of peace. The 5-track EP was inspired by Saenz’s efforts to find a place to call home that is both comfortable and motivating. “It’s about both finding security and taking risks, and how i’ve been trying to find that both within myself and within the context of the community of friends and loved ones i’ve surrounded myself with,” he said about his inspiration for the EP.

The songs were created in a unique way and reflect the meaning behind the project as a whole. Saenz was inspired by vulnerability and the unexpected experiences that come along with opening up to others. He asked his friends to record whatever came to mind when they heard the foundations of these songs. “It was vulnerable and kind of uncomfortable to let go of all of the creative freedom, and the songs took on forms I never would have imagined or set out to do. I’m so happy I decided to do this, as the songs have this organic, complex, and communal vibrance to them.”

When listening through the EP, it is clear that the project is very personal to Saenz and there is a sense of togetherness and hope in the sound. The opening track “Change” begins with a bright and bouncy guitar before Saenz’s soft and soothing vocals. Repeating lyrics like “it’s not that hard to make a change” and “you know what you are to me,” the song is inspiring the listener to better themselves and to help themselves. Saenz wrote this song about how easy it is to lose yourself in negative habits and how hard it is to try to change. “Take responsibility of your life, and be vulnerable with the people who love you. Take a risk.”

“Make Gold” was the first single released from the project in late 2018, and carries on the same hopeful yet introspective sound. Saenz’s folk influences show through in the soft banjo riffs and floating harmonies combined with the strong bass. These choices were intentional and Jordie said that “Musically, I wanted to pair both the responsibility of adulthood represented by the strong low-end presence of the bass and baritone guitar with the child-like hopefulness of the recorders playing during the musical interludes.” The song is about adulthood and how we are responsible for ourselves especially when we are holding ourselves back from our full potential.

During the bridge of this song, there is a soft spoken-word clip of Flannery O’Connor reading “A Good Man is Hard to Find” played over the soft guitar. “The antagonist of that story became a criminal simply from not choosing to question the negative thoughts he had about himself. I found it interesting that choosing to partner with these judgments about ourselves can determine the trajectory and outcome of how we live,” said Saenz. The clip really alludes to this idea of responsibility for our own life and our future.

“Familiar Laughs” is the most rhythmic and layered of the songs on the EP. The low-end beats overlap with a twinkling sound similar to that of a music box. The song is best described as whimsical. It fades to a close with Saenz’s isolated vocals and a simple guitar pattern. The meaning behind the song is how we tend to stay in negative relationships because they are familiar, not because they are good for us. According to Saenz, “I believe this can apply to any sort of relationship: relationship with a person, a substance, social media, or even how we relate to parts of ourselves. Ultimately, it’s more beneficial to choose the discomfort of the unknown over the comfort of the familiar pain.”

Lotus is one of the most hopeful sounding tracks on the EP, complete with strings and the same twinkling sounds as those heard in the previous song. The song seems to move in waves, with a constant ebb and flow between Saenz’s almost isolated voice and the string-like instrumentals. The song peaks when the instrumentals crescendo into clash and fade away into Saenz’s perfect harmonies supported only by sustained chords behind his angelic falsetto. The beat enters again and perfectly tied the music together before the song ends.The name “Lotus” comes from Greek mythology from the lotus-eaters who consumed the psychedelic lotus flowers in an attempt to escape reality. Saenz says that this parallels his own life, he tends to choose pleasure and escapism to avoid the responsibilities that come with being in tune with reality.

The final song is also the title track of the EP. “House Parade” opens with an isolated guitar until Saenz’s voice enters with a faint beat. This song is so simple yet so beautiful, eventually growing from minimalistic and raw into a full layered sound. The whole song gives the sense of floating, a sense which is only heightened with the lyrics “A feathered friend and I in flight to find a better home.” Saenz personally identifies with birds and in his seasons of depression, he feels like a bird who can’t fly. He says, “I can’t always tell when these seasons will come, or how long they’ll last, but this song for me is a reminder that every time I “fall out of the nest,” I know that eventually I’ll fly again to a new home, a new place of comfort.”

Jordie Saenz shows his true artistry in House Parade, and brings a refreshing perspective to the SoCal indie scene. It’s clear that Saenz is inspired by his own raw emotions and will not be confined by what people believe an artist should be.

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