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Black Jackal: The Dystopian Album You Need Now

Anchorage’s most discerning music connoisseurs may remember Paul Jacks from his days with indie rock band Smile Ease. Formed in 2001, the band’s dreamy, synth-laced melodies were a welcome change of pace from Anchorage’s robust hardcore metal scene. But like most bands, Smile Ease had a revolving door of musicians over its 10-year lifespan, and eventually, the lineup changes led lead singer Jacks to go in another direction.

“People move on, get married, and have kids, so keeping a band together is tough. I think I just got to a point where I didn’t necessarily want to do the band thing anymore,” says Jacks.

So, in 2017, Jacks ventured out on his own as a solo artist. An accomplished singer, songwriter, pianist, and synth player, the transition was more of a hope than a jump. Although Jacks insists that he didn’t have lofty goals for his solo career, he has certainly been busy cranking out new music.

Jacks’ debut album “Defractor” dropped in late 2018 and was quickly followed up by his sophomore album “In Other Words” a year later.

“I just think having the freedom to take my time and bring in other artists that I want to work with has been the key,” explains Jacks.

Jacks’ recently released third solo album—“Black Jackal”—is the perfect amalgamation of his newfound creative freedom, synth-rock roots, and the dystopian world we now find ourselves in.

“I set out to make a better new wave record than I thought ‘Defractor’ was. I think in my mind, I wanted to do a kind of futuristic cyberpunk kind of album. I didn’t necessarily know if the album would even do well, but as an artist, I just wanted to make art,” says Jacks.

A concept album that is reminiscent of Rush’s musically adventurous 2012 album “Clockwork Angel,” Jacks’ “Black Jackal” will take you on a wild ride through a surrealist world that hits shockingly close to home.

“There’s a lot of magical realism in the futuristic dystopian world I created in this album because I didn’t want to put a lot of limitations on how I designed the record. But there are also accessible themes of truth-seeking and questioning oneself that really are the underlying foundation of the album. I think a lot of people pick up on that aspect of it because, after 2020, everyone has had to deal with one form or another of identity crisis,” says Jacks.

“Black Jackal” isn’t the kind of album that you put on in the background while you work. It demands your attention and requires the kind of deep listening that rarely happens anymore. However, if you can tune out the seemingly endless background noise of homeschooling, working from home, election news, and COVID updates, what you will experience the kind of album that reminds you of why we love music.

“Black Jackal” is available for purchase at and can be streamed on Spotify.


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