Jeff Beam is one of those Portland staples who is difficult to not notice. You have seen him walking down Congress Street with the lanky stride of John Lennon crossing Abbey Road, perhaps you have even caught him pulling off a Hendrix-influenced solo at various bars around town. Chiseling away for years at his own artistic vision, the 23-year-old artist’s formidable skills in rock music take prominent shape with his newest release Be Your Own Mirror.
Beam’s vision of rock and roll runs the gamut from The Beatles to Elliott Smith, taking the quirky and psychedelic qualities of the former’s Sgt. Pepper days and tinting them with the tenderness of the latter’s haunting acoustic ballads. Through the distillation of a myriad of influences, Beam achieves a singular sound: one that could only come out of his young and earnest brain.
The lyrically-minimal “Whispering Poison in His Ear” delicately unfolds over Casio keyboard-style electronic drums as Beam reflects on old memories with lyrics floating like loose thoughts: “These four walls can’t hold us all/ Overflow like urban sprawl/ We all went our separate ways/ Hypnotized by days of places.” Henry Jamison, fellow bandmate from The Milkman’s Union, provides viola accompaniment stuttering over layers of delayed guitar and ghostly voices that, in combination with Beam’s lush acoustic guitar arrangement, blows through the somber landscape like a soft breeze during a melancholic summer.
“Now” unabashedly walks within an atmosphere only found in Serge Gainsbourg songs, winding melodies unfurling like cigarette smoke in a dusty Paris bar. Seeking solitary confinement from people who lack understanding, Beam withdraws inside himself to find happiness: “I’m going underground/ Tall buildings make me frown/ Give me a quiet town/ I don’t want people always chasing me ‘round.” Every moment of the song succeeds in hooking listeners in, from the distant piano strike to the droning violins bringing the song to a close.
The most remarkable achievement of Be Your Own Mirror is the blending of beautifully-crafted melodies, orchestral-style arrangements and various background noises largely provided by sound-collage producer Tanner Smith of Laminated Cat fame. The monolithic two-part track, titled “Part One” and “Part Two”, traverses a staggering landscape of rock-pop, psychedelia and space-age sounds that almost looms over the entire record; an example of the musical alchemy that Beam effortlessly concocts. Be Your Own Mirror shows that Beam is a master of his own creativity, proven through the precise execution of the album’s nine tracks.