Tampa's Jordan Esker & The Hundred Percent embrace mistakes on new LP

Hail the fail, and stream an advance of the album before a May 26 release show at Paper Crane.

click to enlarge Jordan Esker & the Hundred Percent, which plays Paper Crane in St. Petersburg, Florida on May 26, 2018. - Kelsey Walker
Kelsey Walker
Jordan Esker & the Hundred Percent, which plays Paper Crane in St. Petersburg, Florida on May 26, 2018.

Last Friday, at an advance listening party for his band’s new album, Jordan Esker cut off what seemed like at least a foot of hair to be donated to charity. On May 25, the 26-year-old frontman of St. Pete rock outfit Jordan Esker & The Hundred Percent will give away even more of himself when the band releases Fail to Learn for all to hear.

“[It’s] a phrase that has two meanings, both of which it intends,” Esker suggested in a note about the 11-song collection’s title. He explained that the idea speaks to failing to learn something and therefore repeating your actions. "However, it also speaks to needing to fail in order to learn. The negative interpretation actually has less depth than the positive connotation.”

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If you’re confused, then just look below, where CL is hosting an advance stream of the album, which was mostly recorded at Esker’s home studio with additional parts being put to tape at Bay area studios like Yoko Phono, Dark Matter, and Black Key Recording. Fail was mixed by Daniel J. Goodwin — a Bob Weir collaborator who is responsible for the dreamy texture on Chicago dream-pop band Whitney’s 2016 album Light Upon The Lake — and then mastered by Philip Shaw Bova, who has put his touch on albums by Feist, Bahamas and Andy Shauf.

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The commitment to collaborating with some of indie rock’s finest paid off. Fail shimmers at every turn. Whether it’s the vintage horns and harmony on the album’s first two tracks (“Shelf Life,” “Platitudes”) or the layers of sound at the heart of the LP (“Another Second Chance”), each second of the effort is dripping in soul and driven by what sounds like an army of brass, organ and piano. Esker and the band — drummer Vincent Montemarano, bassist Emmit Dobbyn, keyboard player Matt Raspo and the group’s unofficial fifth member, saxophonist Sheldon Cooper — have grown exponentially since their last outing. There’s an earnest and longing on 2014’s Best Supporting Actor, but the band seemed to just hint at the emo-gospel yacht-rock vagabond that lives inside of it. While the boys never really let that wild, hairy beast of a sound out of the bedroom, Fail finally finds The Hundred Percent truly going all in, bringing what feels like every person it has ever interacted with into the mix both sonically and lyrically.

“Many of these songs are based around things that take place in conversations, relationships between people, feeling insufficient but fighting back against that feeling,” Esker added. Fail is, indeed, a bleeding-heart album, but it begs to be listened to over again. The hooks and melodic tricks will certainly get listeners through the summer, and maybe even keep the hearth warm in the fall or winter. 

Readers interested in seeing Fail to Learn come alive in can head to St. Pete DIY warehouse Paper Crane on May 26 where the band will play a release show. Promising new songwriter Blake Daniels and harpist His Hem will each play support. Additional details, plus a stream of the album, are available below.

Jordan Esker & The Hundred Percent (Album Release)
w/Blake Daniels/His Hem
Sat. May 26, 7 p.m. $10.
Paper Crane, 910 5th St. Ave. N, St. Petersburg

About The Author

Ray Roa

Read his 2016 intro letter and disclosures from 2022 and 2021. Ray Roa started freelancing for Creative Loafing Tampa in January 2011 and was hired as music editor in August 2016. He became Editor-In-Chief in August 2019. Past work can be seen at Suburban Apologist, Tampa Bay Times, Consequence of Sound and The...
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