Kelcey Ayer, the creative force behind Jaws of Love, has always been an ace at writing a good love song – he just didn't always know it. "I used to think that in order to write about love, something had to be wrong," he says. "I often got my material from pain, or insecurity, or problems – I thought I couldn't write a good love song because I am in love and it's going so well. But I've grown to realize that even in the most amazing relationships there are turbulent times and misunderstandings that are unavoidable. And that doesn't mean that anything is doomed, but love is such a complicated thing. The idea of ‘jaws of love' felt so perfect for this project because it's all about love's trials and tribulations."
As Local Natives geared up to release their third album last summer, Ayer booked time in the same LA studio, Electro-Vox, where the band had recorded Sunlit Youth, and in a three-day burst he recorded a handful of his own songs with the help of engineer Michael Harris and mixer Cian Riordan. Without any intention of releasing the tracks initially, Ayer allowed his emotional intuition to lead the way in the process. This ultimately yielded powerful results and was an exhilarating experience that led Ayer to decide to continue writing. He returned to the studio later in the year, and - aided by the studio's myriad synthesizers, antique equipment, preamps, and outboard gear, in addition to drums recorded by Local Natives' drummer Matt Frazier - Ayer completed his gorgeous solo debut.
The piano is a centerpiece here, whether out front on its own like on the opening track "Jaws of Love" or ushering in a maelstrom of synth programming as on "Microwaves." Every tune on the record features piano in a major capacity, with Ayer's lilting, deliberate voice guiding the melodies with nuance and assurance. "Hawaiian License Plates" dips and soars, while "Lake Tahoe" pulls the tempo back down like an R&B torch song sung at 3 a.m. "Everything" features a ripping horn wail, and Ayer's heart-worn vocals over the steady click track on the lovelorn "Love Me Like I'm Gone" take the song to dramatic heights. And yet, as implied by the stark black-and-white visual theme of the cover and throughout the record's lit-inspired book, the 88 keys of that same contrast remain the star.
As the Radiohead-recalling final song, "Nightlight," starts and ends with Ayer's simple, rhythmic piano chords and gentle croon, Jaws of Love's place and power are cemented. "The whole project is me trying to embrace my nuances and indulge in it," he says. "It was such an awesome release making these songs, and that let me embrace who I feel like I am. It was wonderful to not have to explain myself to anyone. I have dark piano music in my heart and soul, and Jaws of Love. is me at my truest self."