Music is much more free flowing now than it used to be. The walls known as genres are starting to blur, as artists are influenced by a variety of music, and have been much more open with letting those influences meander their ways into an artists’ music. In his debut studio album, ‘Through The Wandering,’ J-Era lets us in on a journey, both through his mind and life, but also his musical influences. Let’s take this journey with J-Era and see where we end up.
The very first song on this project is titled “Lost Myself.” Right away we are hit with some grungy guitars and some 808s as J-Era croons about the places he’s lost himself in. This song definitely gives us some emo vibes, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. J-Era does a bit of sing rapping on this record and it leaves you wondering what the rest of the album will sound like. I loved his last line on the song, ” I had to stop looking at myself for freedom.” Next we have “I Was, I Am,” and we get our first glimpse at J-Era’s rapping ability. Era gets into some of his testimony on this song and he juxtaposes who he was with the man he currently is. I really like the hook and the beat, you wouldn’t think his hooks and the style would go with the hard hitting bass, but it does just that. The third song is, “Fresh Cut,” which speaks to fresh cuts appearing over healed scars. The somber guitars lead us through some of Era’s scars like dealing with being fatherless and the inability to trust others. Era admits that this isn’t the first time he’s dealt with cuts, he knows they will keep coming. The fourth song is “Faded” and definitely needs to be listened to more than once. This song speaks to those who have left Christianity or “faded away” as J-Era put it. This song sounds personal, as if he’s speaking about a friend he once did ministry with. This is a tale we are familiar with, the fire and zeal of a Christian walk in it’s infancy, but over time the people in the church and the politics can run some away from the Lord. J-Era told a relatable story over a melancholy beat, but he painted a picture you could see.
We turn the corner on the album and walk into “Wanderlust.” We still have the melancholy vibes but we also have some trap drums. Wanderlust is a strong desire to travel, and that idea comes across in this song. J-Era equates the wanderlust of wanting to travel physically with the wanderlust of those wanting to wander into things that are harmful. J-Era sings and yells, “No man knows the hour of our wanderlust.” This wanderlust could also parallel with the travel our souls will take once they leave their earthly vessels. Era warns against, “Building a kingdom where we are not kings,” and hopefully the message came across in the song. On “Another Midnight” Era speaks to how living life without God is a life full of darkness. Era is good at painting a picture with his words and voice and “waking up to another midnight” was a great description. The next song, and arguably one of the best on the album, is “Fencelines.” This song is another fusion of hip hop and alternative rock with a great message attached. J-Era rails against the idea of being neutral in this world. While others may paint shades of grey, Era makes it clear that not choosing is still making a choice. His second verse really snapped with lines, “Walking in love doesn’t mean you approve/walking in love means you stand up for truth/ If I let go I’ll only hold on to lies/ If I let go that’s a compromise.” Era ties the song up with a short story about a man who woke up in Hell. The man didn’t understand but Satan told him, “That fence was mine.” This solidifies that if you don’t choose God or Satan you are actually still choosing Satan. Era’s “Blood On Me” is an anthem with a dope screamo hook about how he’s been whitewashed from sin and all he has is the blood of Jesus on him.
We turn the corner into the final few songs of the album and we stumble into, “I Told You So,” a nice pop-rock ballad about unrequited love. While it’s a great story, I don’t know if it needed to be on the album. Era explains that he can’t be anyone’s “True Love” because he is just a man. A man who won’t measure up to the standard he’s been called to because he will inevitably let them down. I think he’s talking about his wife, which runs counter cultural to what people often say about spouses. Era knows if he is to love right then he must be more like God. This song is jarring from the title alone, but when you listen to the song you will catch what J-Era is handing you. Immediately after the ballad we are thrown into a mosh pit of a song with “Broken.” This song will probably go over well when performed live. We have some angsty guitars and then that bass hits. The scream sung hook coupled with J-Era’s aggressive verses serve as an anthem to remind the listener that Jesus will never leave us. We even hear a real scream at the end of the song, definitely getting some nu metal vibes on this one. I was surprised at how much I liked this song, Era is definitely going to blow some venues’ speakers with this one. J-Era challenges the listener to truly know God on “Empty Echoes.” Era wants the listener to know what God wants is higher and better than what we could ever desire. The next to last song on the album is “Calm With the Lions.” Era slows down with an emo ballad about God will keep us safe and calm with the lions. This is a worship song, and you can feel his heart on this. He is sure God will deliver him from his enemies. The final song is “Home” and it’s a fitting finale for the journey J-Era took us on. This is a straight up CCM acoustic worship song and I love it. J-Era croons that God’s presence is his home, only God alone makes him feel at home in this world. This is the perfect way to end the album.
In conclusion, J-Era’s ‘Through the Wandering’ is an excellent debut album. The theme of a wandering journey was executed from the titles of the songs to their sequence on the album, it was intentional. I can tell J-Era took his time with this project and he told a wonderful story. For those who only listen to hip hop this album could be jarring, but for me it was a wonderful listen. It took me back to the early to mid two thousands when I used to listen to Sum 41, Linkin Park, and other alternative rock and pop-rock acts who dominated the airwaves. Don’t get it twisted, because along with J-Era’s singing and screaming, he is rapping his face off on some of these songs. J-Era is slick with his words and he had a lot of quotable lines laced throughout this project. I wanted to say fourteen songs is a lot but it wasn’t. J-Era is the only artist on the project, but I never got bored of listening to him. I’d love to hear what he sounds like with features, but I’m also cool with just J-Era. If you want something to come out of left field from your typical hip hop album, be sure to check out J-Era’s ‘Through The Wandering.’