“Were it not for shadows, there would be no beauty.”
Finding the light amongst the darkness of the world can be commonly perceived as a task for the unhappy or struggling individual, but philosophically, it can be understood as one of the most ordinary desires of the human race. Artist Puma Blue—aka Jacob Allen—attacks this topic in the latest release of his extensive 14-track album, In Praise of Shadows. The album’s title comes from Jun‘ichirō Tanizaki’s book on Japanese aesthetics, in which Allen stated, “From which the themes sat in my heart ‘til I came to the understanding that this album was about finding light in the dark.”
Taking off from a career started on Soundcloud, the UK-based singer/songwriter and producer began making music in his bedroom to connect with himself and quickly to many others, as he continued gaining recognition for his relatable lyrics and distinct production. Now signed to Blue Flowers Music, Puma Blue continues to impress the music scene by mixing bits and pieces of lo-fi and indie sub-genres to formulate his alternative sound.
In Praise of Shadows is an intimate album. To fully experience it, it is best to be in a setting where one can focus on Allen’s lyrics or not focus at all and doze off into deep space. Either way, the album would be most impactful when people are in their feels, on a quiet night or cloudy morning. The introductory track, “Sweet Dreams,” begins with a soft-emo guitar beat, most similar to a Lil Peep type-beat but soon takes the listener by surprise when the track hits a groovy lo-fi beat and Puma Blue’s soft R&B vocals come in. The lyrics are short and simple but, of course, are impactful and relatable, as he sings, “Oh does it get better? Cause darling, nothing feels right….Oh, I know I hurt you, but if I can, I wanna make it right.”
“Velvet Leaves” is one of the most personal tracks of the 14, as it is about his sister’s struggle, leading to a specific day, event and reflecting on how it all transpired for Allen. The song begins with a soft, orchestral melody, evolving into another one of his groovy lo-fi atmospheres. As he sings, “And in this dream, we fall through velvet leaves, Ushered in reverse through the silk-like purse, Outstretching, unending, except for the ends of you.” Allen explains, “the chorus is about that veil between life and death, how thin it is.”
The following song, “Snowflower,” is quiet and jazzy, as the presence of a simple piano and underlying static noise blend to create a soothing background. When listening to Allen’s vocals, it is clear this song is about being hurt or hurting someone in a relationship, another topic that is relatable to a large population of anyone that has been in love. Allen describes it as a “sort of poem or prayer to the end of a relationship and just sort of the acceptance of realizing it’s over.
“Already Falling” and “Opiate” are two of the other most popular songs on the album, both being indie-pop-based. One song that stuck out was “Oil Slick,” as it holds similarities to a Radiohead beat yet holds deeper vocals, causing for a fun and intriguing listen. Fitting with the Radiohead-type themes along with the themes of the album itself, this song relates to “dealing with depression and not wanting to fall down into a black hole.”
In Praise of Shadows is filled with London-influenced tracks that hold strong meaning and power, all fulfilling a melancholy yet soothing effect for the listeners. Puma Blue’s work as a songwriter enables fans to connect with him on a personal level as he is singing from a very personal place of himself while colliding with the hearts of his listeners.