Asbury Park’s PRIM released their debut EP, Awake Again, back on January 30. The band is led by singer/songwriter Jenna Murphy, who is joined by Erik Romero (also responsible for the EP’s production, engineering, and mastering), Jeff Lane, Chris Beninato, and Mike Linardi.
The EP is remarkably dynamic, with emotional highs and lows coupled with musical climaxes, giving Awake Again an overwhelmingly powerful impact. From the first listen, I was enthralled with this album. Instrumentally, the sound is so dreamlike, and you can easily get lost in trying to peel away the layers of the guitar, piano, bass, and drums which are all so distinct but still come together to complement each other and the vocals so perfectly.
“Awake Again,” the title track, is the most upbeat and poppy sounding on the album, which contrasts the other more mellow and toned-down tracks like “It’s Because I Cut My Hair” and “Spilt Milk” so perfectly. This is a track you could actually dance to. I mean, I can’t, but theoretically, someone with more ability and only one left foot absolutely could.
While there are plenty of impressive qualities to Jenna’s vocals, the flow of the delivery is exceptionally skillful. So often throughout the EP, and frequently at the most impactful moments, the vocals are so conversational. It allows the weight and significance of the meaning to be so much more impactful, which is important for an album like this that features such profoundly personal and emotional lyrics, and is probably the greatest strength of the entire album.
This past Friday, PRIM played a show at The Saint in Asbury Park with good friends Modern Chemistry, Toy Cars, and ManDancing. As far as the New Jersey indie scene goes, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better lineup. Of course, the other aforementioned bands all played incredible sets, as they always do, but as this was the first time I had seen PRIM perform, and since I’ve been listening to Awake Again on loop lately, that was the set I was the most excited for.
The stage curtains opened to vocalist Jenna Murphy front and center. With Erik Romero and Jeff Lane currently on tour with dollys, Jenna performed a solo set, accompanied only by her acoustic guitar and range of effects pedals, which she used so efficiently that it gave the impression of a full choral accompaniment. She called the audience to come in closer to the stage. It was a performance that could only be intimate with such deeply personal lyrics regarding feelings of love, loss, guilt, loneliness, being an adult, and not crying because you’re an adult. That last one I occasionally struggled with while listening to this EP, but a few tears are well worth being able to enjoy this album.
Jenna said between her first and second song that she was exceptionally nervous that night because, in addition to this being a solo performance, this was the first show in five years that she allowed her family to attend. Her nerves weren’t apparent on stage, however, as she seemed to exude confidence throughout the entirety of the set, finding strength in the vulnerability of being on stage alone to bare her heart and soul to family, friends, and complete strangers.
She closed the set with “Spilt Milk,” the first single that was released off Awake Again. She sings “My face turns so red/ From drinking more than I should,” pauses, smiles to her left, and interjects, “sorry mom.” The audience, which so early in the night was already near capacity, was completely captivated. The room was dead silent behind the sound of Jenna’s voice. It was so quiet, in fact, that whenever she would pause you could probably hear me in the back taking a deep breath trying to keep down some tears, although, as she said earlier this week when I told her this album was so good it makes me want to cry, “There’s no shame in a few tears (or a lot)!”
The set concluded with thunderous applause, as you could’ve guessed it would. I always like to think of these performances beyond the mere musical aspect, and while of course Jenna Murphy is a wildly talented singer and creative songwriter, speaking as someone with relatively little talent and even less self-esteem, I was absolutely blown away by the courage and openness it must take to stand on stage alone in front of a crowd of people, including your parents and giving that performance. Considering the most personal thing I’ve told my parents recently was “No, I had pizza last night,” it’s unfathomable to me and something I found to be incredibly impressive.
Adam gave man-birth to N.J. Racket and is as close to an "editor-in-chief" the site has. He's a god awful photographer.
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