An exposition of classic guitar pop, with its greatest rewards waiting at the end.
If the term ‘softly spoken’ had to be personified, then Josh King has got the gig. No need to ask anyone else. Paul Simon and Jackson Browne needn’t try out. He blends that oh so gentle voice into musical form on this pop/rock/folksy/indie bag of nine songs. This North Carolinian, tattooed, long-haired troubadour has earned his spurs with previous band House of Fools, plus this, his third solo record.
This reviewer is reminded of the more refrained moments of the tragically no longer Fountains of Wayne, and the timbre of lead vocalist Chris Collingwood. There’s a similar sad pop sensibility displayed here too. Lyrically, the sentiments are open and moldable – the listener can superimpose their own take on King’s laments. It is a record that evolves into a slower, sweeter and more rewarding listen towards its conclusion. As an example, the closer, ‘LP’ is a synthy spacey retro-futuristic lovelorn ballad. It could easily be a misstep, a cliche, but the quality of the song carries it through as an album finale, complete with rolling percussion and floating, multi-tracked ‘la la la’ vocals.
Before then, ‘Buzz’ is an absolute belter of a song, with a strong Fountains/Teenage Fanclub vibe. ‘Another One For Abbey’ tiptoes in with piano and vocals, then explodes into ‘huuge’ guitars and chorus, then abruptly collapses back into piano and vocal. It’s silly and doesn’t take itself seriously (you’d hope). ‘New Life’ is another slow ballad, but it’s another classic guitar pop song – even the slightly tacky synth brass fits the CSNY ‘Our House’ mood.
It would be unfair to say that the first half of this collection isn’t worthy; it’s generally more uptempo for sure. ‘Nothing Matters’ is probably the standout track amongst these opening shots. ‘Turn Away’ is also good; solid, mid-tempo, Petty/Heartbreakers venture, with a dirty, fuzzy bottle slide guitar lead. The established, ‘natural sounding’ structure to a record exists where the bolder, faster tracks are ordered ‘up front’, as King presents here. If this was a vinyl release, the strong recommendation would be to start with Side Two. As a download/stream, the listener can start wherever they want to, but you should still start with Side Two.