★★★★☆

ISOBELLA GOONETILLAKE/THE HOYA The up-and-coming duo Jack + Eliza brought 1960s spirit to their intimate performance at Hill & Dale Records.
ISOBELLA GOONETILLAKE/THE HOYA
The up-and-coming duo Jack + Eliza brought 1960s spirit to their intimate performance at Hill & Dale Records.

Last month, two grungy 19-year-olds performed in a small record store filled with fewer than 20 people. The duo was called Jack + Eliza, and the two musicians filled the room with their combined guitar strumming and drowsy ’60s, Motown-style harmonies. This unconventional blend of electric guitars and nostalgic, California-style pop vocals interwove with one another surprisingly well.

Despite the quality of their sound, Jack Staffen and Eliza Callahan are still relatively unknown: their biggest single “Hold the Line” has less than 15, 000 views on YouTube, and they don’t have the typical artist’s Wikipedia page.  However, the Manhattan-born duo has a strong sense of musical direction that makes their future work promising.

They list their main inspiration as The Beatles while also citing Tame Impala, The Mamas & the Papas, and African ’60s psychedelia as their other musical influences. The dreamy melodies first popularized by the Beatles are certainly present in their music, but Eliza’s atmospheric guitar solos also give the duo a rockier vibe.

The influence of this ’60s era music is heard in their effortless tunes that coat their lyrics with sweet sentiments. On “Secrets,” the duo sings, “Why don’t you tell her/ All of your secrets?” Jack + Eliza capture the overall mood of their music by describing it as “melodious sun-drenched pop,” as it is very much reminiscent of the ’60s, but with a modern twist.

The two teenagers share more than just musical chemistry; they grew up together as childhood friends, and their effortless camaraderie is felt in their comfortable performance and the way in which their voices easily combine. Although Eliza’s vocals definitely lead the harmonies, the duo complements one each other perfectly. There is nothing romantic about the partnership, but Jack + Eliza cannot help but remind you of the end scene in “Juno,” where the two love interests sit and lazily play songs together on their guitars. And herein lies the appeal of Jack + Eliza: they’re inherently youthful and effortless in their performance, as if they have just been caught in a backyard jam session.

The venue of Hill and Dale record store added to this intimacy, as it was small enough for Eliza to casually ask the small crowd “is the guitar too loud?” and inform us that the next song “Floodlights” wasn’t well-practiced. This also serves as a reminder that while Jack + Eliza are on an upward career path, they are most certainly still developing.

The duo only played five songs in their short performance, showing that there is still much to add to their repertoire. Their songs are also stylistically simplistic at times. This may be a natural downside to the lack of instruments, but the pace in most of the songs is slow and downbeat, and so it seems that the duo could diversify more.

That being said, it is worth noting that producer Chris Zane is the driving force behind this little-known band. He has previously helped develop Passion Pit, Mumford and Sons, and Holy Ghost in the early stages of their careers, showing us that the best of this duo is yet to be seen. At the moment, Jack + Eliza must be considered not as experienced musicians but as newcomers: the two have only recently come out with their debut album “No Wonders,” and not to mention Jack + Eliza are still sophomores attending university (NYU and Columbia respectively). They clearly have much growth and musical development to undergo, and this is just the start.

Jack + Eliza could definitely occupy the unfilled space of a boy-girl alternative duo in today’s music scene. Their interesting melange of genres and musical epochs is refreshing, and their music is uniquely summer-sounding yet inherently melancholy.

What’s more is that they most certainly have talent. At the age of 15, Eliza won the International Lennon Songwriting Award and the two develop and write their own songs together, with little help or production. At the age of only 19, these two teenagers are already boldly experimenting with music styles and have the confidence to write their own music without relying on synthetic sounds and over-production.

Although at the moment you are more likely to hear them on the in-store soundtrack at Urban Outfitters or on an obscure 8tracks playlist, Jack + Eliza will surely not remain in the shadows for long, and they will hopefully inspire others to revive the richness of music that filled the 1960s.

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