Jom Comyn (a.k.a. Jim Cuming) doesn’t necessarily believe that all people are special and unique snowflakes, but that’s because it can be tough to appreciate that kind of sentiment while you’re walking home in the middle of a blizzard. On his forthcoming album, In the Dark On 99 (All the Time, All the Time), Cuming explores his surroundings, shrugging off the insularity and drawing inspiration from the unforgiving conditions an Edmonton winter unleashes on its citizens.
While a lot of us find our monochromatic winter landscape bleak, Cuming instead lets himself get lost in an arctic reverie, crooning sentimentally in his dulcet baritone about walking home through city streets that are glazed under layers of ice and as cars form glacial mountains from being buried in snow. Not unlike a contemplative trek, the lyrics of In the Dark on 99 map out a thoughtful narrative and, with 15 songs, the album takes the scenic route. From its nearly a cappella beginning, to its experimental dirges and Constantines-influenced, guitar-centric tracks, Cuming is ready to lead us like a seasoned Sherpa through the short, dark days of a long, northern winter.
The best part of a relentless winter season is the sense of camaraderie it breeds as everyone finds themselves confined indoors together. On this record, Cuming brings several members of his working social scene to the album: notably, Mitch Holtby (a.k.a. Mitchmatic) plays a stormy sax riff through the album’s sole instrumental track and Jessica Jalbert delivers a crystalline lead vocal to close out In the Dark on 99.
While Jom Comyn may not think that everyone is a unique and special snowflake, he has the ingenuity to create an album that stands out and avoids some of the clichés other winter-themed albums slide into, and that alone is rare.
Review and photo (middle) by Levi Manchak