Let's start with the obvious: Chicago is a hotbed of talent across all genres. Staple indie label Closed Sessions, home to the likes of Kweku Collins, Jamila Woods, Webster X, and more, has been instrumental in discovering and nuturing new talent in the city. Their latest signee, indie pop singer Jack Larsen is a bold step forward for the label. The fresh and dreamy aesthetics borrow directly from Collins, and the effortlessly evocative themes Larsen invokes fall in line with Closed Sessions' unspoken mission statement to make you feel something with every listen.
Jack Larsen is obsessed with his youth and transition, and spends the bulk of this EP navigating and situating his memories in present and future contexts. The project itself rose out of Larsen's anxieties over finishing college and having to choose between a career in music or a 9-to-5. Moving from the known to the unknown, Larsen began exercising more and more, doing a whole gang of push-ups to stave off the anxiety. From that catharsis we get his new EP, Push-Ups.
To get a feel for the EP's mission statement, we can look to the project's lead single and clear standout track, "Break," catalogs the coming-of-age narrative and all of the anxiety that comes with moving through life's chapter without being asked if you're ready to turn the page. There's a spry and equally worn quality to Larsen's voice as he summons summer memories with tender and thinning notes, singing: "Bugs in my shirt, bricks in my head." There's a classic summer flick feel to the production, a gentle prattling in the percussion that mimics the distant roar of a beater car flying down the high way.
The project is not dripping is nostalgia, won't make your teeth ache, but there is a nice welling up of emotion across its six tracks. Jack Larsen sings with a dream-pop affect, with a bevy of vocal tricks in his pocket to keep the music from simply washing over listeners. Upticks in pace and his impressive breath control keep the EP from being too singular. Push-Ups is nicely tempered, then, never straying too far from reality. Partly so it can be listenable, and partly because Larsen knows he has no choice but to face his fears.
In that way, Push-Ups is as much about escape as it is about facing circumstances. On the astral, "Prom" Larsen sings about the toll of doing push-ups, and the parallel of feeling lost in your body, feeling like you're falling of your own timeline. The hip-hop influence on album closer, "Angels" features Jack Larsen with a grip of agency. Not without his doubts, by "Angels" Larsen is at the least confident in living his life as his own. Whether or not this is a plea or a declaration, we still hear Larsen taking the reigns. Meaning, Larsen begins Push-Ups as a bid for finding some direction, and concludes the EP by realizing he is his own compass.