Nick Hexum has somehow found a way to craft an even more mellow record than the most subdued tracks from his main band, 311. As their frontman, he’s a tenacious force of nimble guitar and distinct vocals. On his own (and joined by an impressive rolodex of musicians, including his brother Zack), Hexum’s pseudo-island grooves sound more like they’ve come off the coast of Hawaii, surfing side by side with Jack Johnson, than steeped in the groove of Jamaica. Opening track “Once in Your Life” sets the mood with rather mellow guitar atop a sea of almost indie pristine harmonies and lyrics focused on unwinding and unplugging.
Though My Shadow Pages is billed as diverse effort that draws from the deeper reaches of Hexum’s musical palette, it’s a relatively homogenous album. Few were aware that Hexum was focused on bringing a side project to light as he wrote in between time with 311 and his family in the shadows. The album’s title is a reference to Hexum’s creative process and belies the positivity of its dozen tracks. “Blame the Sky” and “Starry Eyes” encourage you to follow your dreams and the one you love with an almost jam band casualness. Even at his most yearning, Hexum is accentuating the positives.
The Nick Hexum Quintet may never record any further material, though Hexum is at peace with what he’s already produced, adamantly stating that 311 is still his main priority. With the type of success the Nebraska band has had and continues to have, the studio is Hexum’s oyster. We may see a post-rock album or an album of Americana covers next. For now, My Shadow Pages is a testament to the fact that creatives get restless and don’t always prioritize what their fans want or need. Sure, you can toke up just as much to the Nick Hexum Quintet as you can throw down with 311, but My Shadow Pages is Hexum’s time to unwind. Enjoy it while you can.