“You can reinvent yourself in the city,” sings Jake Thistle, a little ruefully, “and see how long it takes that new heart to break.” The 19-year-old New Jersey folk-rocker is singing to a young woman determined to shed the trappings of childhood and establish her independence. But listen carefully to “Brooklyn Can Wait,” his gorgeous new single, and you’ll realize he’s also addressing himself. It’s a reminder that problems don’t go away when you change your location or become more successful. Wherever you go, there you are.
If that sounds like a mature perspective coming from an artist so young, rest assured that Jake Thistle can get rowdy when he needs to be. On “Ghosted Road,” his breakthrough 2022 single, he is as searing and passionate as any rocker. That chorus melody might be beautiful, but the fiercely embodied performance makes his heartbreak and his romantic discontent palpable. Indie Boulevard noticed: they named “Ghosted Road” the Best Americana Song of 2022. Down The Line, his 2020 debut album, drew comparisons to Jeff Tweedy and Jason Isbell from American Songwriter. He’s become a favorite in the clubs of Asbury Park — a city built on rock history and a place where only the most talented and earnest are recognized.
“Brooklyn Can Wait” builds on those successes. Like its predecessors, it’s heartfelt, sincere, and beautifully performed. It’s also an expression of the sort of wisdom that it often takes artists a lifetime to obtain. Thistle’s delivery is soothing and soulful, and his compassion for his addressee is impossible to miss. He knows all about the lure of the city and its promises: opportunity, achievement, excitement. But like Billy Joel did on “Vienna,” he warns his listener — and himself — about the perils of growing up too fast.
Jake Thistle is also a genial, thoughtful presence in Johnny Servais’s video for “Brooklyn Can Wait.” The director shoots the star while sitting and strumming on the floor of a typical bedroom in a commuter suburb, reflecting on the choices ahead of him and the price of ambition. Even when he makes it to the city, his approach to the camera is humble: he appears as a busker in a subway station, guitar slung around his shoulders and bringing his words of caution to passersby. But there’s another character in the clip: Jake Thistle’s hair-cutter, a young woman whose feelings about the city are considerably less ambivalent. She’s invigorated by the streets and swept up by the pace of life, utterly unafraid to swap out her former identity for a new one. Will Jake Thistle’s message reach her? Or will hers reach him?
Follow Jake Thistle: