Detroit outfit Jamaican Queens are more than just a unique name. While they are neither from Jamaica nor do they come from royalty, the all-male group has been churning out a quality level of pre-meditated heartbreak and sorrow through their self-proclaimed “industrial doo-wop” music. They also describe their sound as trop goth.
Trop? Like trap and pop? I can't be sure.
Sounding a bit like David Bowie in a gutter in 2020, their music captures an atmosphere that is both sincere and brutally honest. Like opening a diary of a former lover and finding out that you ruined them down to their very core. They have songs like “Love is Impossible” and “Never Felt Love”. Hell, the opening line to their debut album, 2013’s Wormfood, is “You took my heart and I just sat there drinking water.”
Lead singer/songwriter/guitarist Ryan Spencer was previously in the baroque Detroit group Prussia. They're worth checking out. After their split in 2012, Spencer and member Adam Pressley joined forces with Ryan Clancy (drums) and, most recently, Charles Trees (DJ/producer) to craft a formula of music that combines hip-hop with electronica with 1950s drive-in ballads with grunge soaked heartbreak. The result is an emotional rollercoaster through weird psych pop that demands replays.
JamQueens’ most recent effort, Downers, remains one of my favorite albums of the year and is a fine follow-up to their 2013 debut album, Wormfood. While Wormfood might have been better fit for the radio (although still being coated in obscurity), Downers is more cohesive and damaged, akin to a late-night journal entry, a twilight cry, a daydream full of lovesick painkillers and substance abuse. Not the lightest project by any means, and not something your mother will care for, but Downers contains more passion and honesty than most groups are able to accomplish in an entire career.
Jamaican Queens manage to pave their own lane by non-stop touring, progressive remix scavenger hunts, and a wild-eyed website. The quartet seem to be combatting depression by releasing therapeutic and stunningly beautiful music, all the while dabbling in hallucinogens and strip club. They're more inventive and original than the next band and sound unlike anything out right now. Jamaican Queens: when you need a taste of some weird. We are more than happy to have these Detroit maniacs as our neighbors.