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Sean Henry - A Jump From the High Dive Music Album Reviews

The East Coast songwriter’s college-rock melodies and boyish vocal delivery waver between charming and cloying.

From fanny packs to Pokémon Go to Mariah Carey’s 25-year-old No. 1 song, ’90s nostalgia is a hell of a drug—one that Sean Henry employs throughout his second studio album, A Jump From the High Dive. The East Coast singer-songwriter has said that he wanted to create a record that was accessible and “listenable for anybody,” an objective he accomplishes to a fault. His college-rock melodies and boyish vocal delivery waver between charming and cloying, delivering a pleasant, vapid stream of would-be earworms.


In 2018, Henry did what any burnt-out artist low on cash would do: He left New York City, where he’d resided and often performed at the now-defunct Silent Barn. Returning to suburban Connecticut, he honed his craft and invested in sharper production that boosts High Dive above its predecessor, Fink. He studied the likes of Radiohead, Oasis, and Red Hot Chili Peppers, on a mission to create his own modern guitar pop record—the kind that might’ve spawned a surprise hit 20-some years ago.

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The affable electric guitar chugs of songs like “Space Kicks” and “You Fall Away” aren’t nearly as catchy as the Chili Peppers or as sophisticated as Radiohead. Rather, High Dive feels indebted to the brisk guitar pop of Foolish or Keep It Like a Secret—records emblematic of ’90s indie rock underdogs. Plenty of current artists take inspiration from that era: (Sandy) Alex G, Spencer Radcliffe, and even the Double Double Whammy founders who played in LVL UP have tapped similar nostalgia without allowing it to eclipse their individuality. While Henry’s not alone in his appreciation, hardly anything here feels new. Even the “yeah”s of opener “Can U” approximate Collective Soul’s “Shine.” It takes dedication to make an on-the-nose throwback like the boisterous “Surf Song,” but High Dive lacks any distinguishing eccentricities.

Worse, many of Henry’s lyrics are undercooked or almost comically immature. “Rain, rain, come to me/Come to me today,” he croons on “Rain, Rain,” a song he began writing at age 8 in hopes of getting Little League practice canceled. He rhymes “halo” with “lay low” and “head up” with “fed up”; earnest phrases like “I think you’re cool and I like you a lot” and “mellow like Jell-O” feel like Nickelodeon dialogue. It seems Henry wants to dig deeper, but when he turns to heavier subject matter, such as fleeting memories of his late father on “Can U,” it’s so shrouded in banality that you might miss it altogether. High Dive was conceived with high aspirations, but it runs out of steam on the very first spin.


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