Billy Jeter’s Shine Eye Landing starts off like you’re hearing the tale from a man burdened with soul and experience. “Orion”, the opener of the album leans into this aesthetic with a slow burn ambient driven guitar with lingering organ accompaniment.
The lyricism focusing on themes of journeys, self-discovery, and independence with various lines paying lip service to the very idea of one’s self doing things for their own enjoyment, whether it’s harmful or something that’ll make them “sing out loud” as Jeter says. The multilayered sounds feature plenty of nuances that appear across the record that you might actually miss on the first listen, which immediately warrants it to be revisited.
“Shine Eye Landing”, the title track switches gears with memory-evoking the past with lines like “See my Baby acting Shine Eye”, which is just a wonderful way of saying teary-eyed or even wide-eyed. It’s a song about looking back to when you were younger, looking forward to the future. It’s very much a snake eating its own tail sort of song, which also makes sense given that the ending track “The Apostle” dips back into the well of looking back at youthhood and what could come out of growing up and leaving your old town behind. “Sins of Me” builds on the themes present in “That’s Just the Way We Roll”, whereas the former is a declaration of defiance in the face of rules or whatever Murphy’s law plans on throwing Jeter, “Sins of Me” is about the shameful actions we’re prone to commit, even in the face of freedom. In so many ways the album feels like a novel, a coming of age one for sure but told backward.
Jeter’s voice is like a layered performance unto itself. He knows when to aim low to deliver a specific vocal punch, like in the arresting “Song for Walter”, which along with its subtle piano backing almost feels like the very tired eulogy for a loved one. Memory is a funny thing because it has the ability to tell such wonderful lies. Jeter is aware of this and even pays lip service to these ideas, but elects to treat the past on equal terms of heartbreak and the feeling of fullness you get from truly seeing the world. If the album has any shortcomings, it’s that some of the songs can feel a little on the repetitive side. Jeter’s structure is particularly distinct, but he uses it quite a few times especially at the end. Even if it does create an auditory throughline, it can still be distracting.
Props to the mixing and mastering and also for keeping the album on the brisk side, but without it coming across as skeletal. Jeter’s lyrics aim for colorful nontraditional descriptions, and they’re all arresting, even if they border on confusing like in the playful exuberant “Oh Lordy Me”. If Jeter went back in time and gave this album to himself, his younger variant would surely be proud and touched of the man he’s become through his artistry and the mastering of his craft so fully on display here.