An Album a Day: Lines, Vines and Trying Times

March 10, Lines, Vines and Trying Times

Genre: Rock, but with some curveballs
Year: 2009
Runtime: 48:28
Total Number of Tracks: 13* (This includes “Keep It Real” which Wikipedia says is a bonus track. Some more quality time with Google determined that this track was originally recorded for the soundtrack of their Disney Channel show JONAS, which is perhaps why it gets this designation. This track seems to be included on the major streaming versions of the album, even ones not designated as a “deluxe edition,” so we’re just gonna say it’s a 13-track album.)  
Songs you might know:
– “Paranoid”
– “Fly With Me”

My prior relationship with the album: I really didn’t pay much attention to Lines, Vines and Trying Times. It came out right around the time I had outgrown of the Disney Channel, and at a time when it felt like the Jonas Brothers had already peaked (probably because they too, had outgrown the Disney Channel). Prior to Album a Day, I don’t think I’d heard a single track on here beyond “Paranoid.” There’s a chance I had listened to it at some point over the years out of sheer curiosity, but if that happened I don’t remember.

 My impression this time around: Lines, Vines and Trying Times is a surprisingly experimental album. Compared to prior Jonas Brothers albums, we see more tracks that incorporate horns or even a full orchestra. We see them flirt with a country sound on “Before the Storm” (ft. Miley Cyrus) and follow it up with a straight up country track, “What Did I Do to Your Heart.” No shit, there’s fiddle on the latter track, making it more of a country song than 90 percent of modern country radio. “Keep It Real” is ska.

But of course the most bamboozling thing on here is the collaboration with Common, “Don’t Charge Me for the Crime.”  I couldn’t even dislike this song the first couple times I heard it because I was too confused to have any other thoughts about the track. Somehow it was determined that the Jonas Brothers should be part of this hip hop rock track about the criminal justice system and that track should be on their Disney Channel pop rock album. I actually think had Common made this track all by himself, it might have been a thought provoking social commentary, but when you add Disney-era Jonas Brothers, it’s just kind of a mess that loses its credibility. It feels glaringly obvious that the track didn’t belong on this album. I just want to be a fly on the wall for the meetings where they decided that this particular collaboration should happen at this particular time and that they should make this particular song and include it on this particular album.

All that being said, Lines, Vines and Trying Times is full of hidden gems. Heartfelt ballads like “Black Keys” and “Turn Right” are incredibly beautiful, and deliver the kind of emotional depth that was all too rare on prior albums. I also love “Don’t Speak” which sounds so much like a OneRepublic song I was surprised to learn Ryan Tedder didn’t work on it. “Hey Baby” delivers everything one could possibly want from a Jonas Brothers song with this funky bass line that elevates it above most other Jonas Brothers songs. “Much Better” gives us a glimpse of that relaxing, chill-out pop we would eventually see on their 2019 comeback album, while “World War 3” proves that they still know their way around a proper rock song. We also see Nick starting to move away from that nasally, forced raspiness I’ve complained about before, and that’s refreshing. There’s so much good stuff going on here that I certainly don’t regret listening to the album, I just don’t think it makes a ton sense when you try to process it as one cohesive piece of art.

Who would enjoy it? I think this is a good album for people who love that middle ground between pop and rock. Most of the songs on here are fairly well executed versions of that. Just be aware that there are a few tracks that are far enough away from that sound that the album feels rather disjointed, so if cohesion is a huge priority for you, maybe skip “What Did I Do to Your Heart” and “Don’t Charge Me for the Crime.”

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