Tobias Jesso Jr.
Goon


3.7
great

Review

by DaveyBoy EMERITUS
March 11th, 2015 | 52 replies


Release Date: 03/17/2015 | Tracklist

Review Summary: The sentimental male pianist persona receives an independent audit.

Do you believe in fate" How about the phrase "everything happens for a reason"" No. Well, Tobias Jesso Jr.'s story might make you reconsider. A native of Vancouver, Jesso was the bass player for Emergenza (worldwide competition for unsigned bands) winning indie rock quartet The Sessions. With nothing but a Bob Rock produced EP to their name, the band then played back-up for little-known pop singer Melissa Cavatti in Los Angeles. When that gig also amounted to little and Jesso's mother was diagnosed with cancer, the 6 foot 7 inch Canadian left his instruments behind and returned to his parents' home. The fate awaiting him there was his sister's piano. It fuelled many self-administered lessons, songwriting sessions and a successful call to producer Chet "JR" White (Girls); the result of which is debut LP 'Goon'.

On paper, ‘Goon’ is a 1970s throwback, whose quality should land somewhere in-between “cringe-worthy” and “merely ok”. Jesso is a 29 year old hopeless romantic who dwells on unrequited love. There are moments when his lyrics are both clichéd and cheesy (For Example: “I can hardly breathe without you”). Furthermore, his piano playing is competent, but far from outstanding. In reality, however, ‘Goon’ surpasses any suggestion of mediocrity by a significant margin. How and why isn’t quite so easy to pinpoint, but it clearly has a lot to do with the man himself. There’s an honesty and fragility to Jesso’s insecure self-doubt which not only comes off as winsome, but also remarkably instinctual. It’s a mature trait which goes further than labelling Jesso’s narratives as merely relatable; and makes ‘Goon’ as a whole, thoroughly compelling.

With all but two of Goon’s tracks being piano driven, White’s production is integral to the album’s success. From the poignant moments of silence strewn throughout second single ‘Hollywood’, to the more pronounced instrumentation of ‘For You’ and the Ariel Rechstaid produced ‘Without You’ (featuring Danielle Haim on drums), much of what is heard here is note-perfect. Furthermore, while the LP’s latter half doesn’t quite live up to it’s opening half-dozen tracks, sufficient variety is instilled in all the right places; whether it’s the acoustic guitar of the Patrick Carney (The Black Keys) produced ‘The Wait’, the more playful nature of ‘Crocodile Tears’, the vocal effects on the glacial-paced ‘Bad Words’, the gorgeous strings of ‘Just a Dream’, or the borderline doo-wop backing vocals of the frustratingly repetitive ‘Leaving L.A.’.

What Tobias Jesso Jr. is doing here on ‘Goon’ is far from unique. However, his contemporaries (with any significant longevity) existed four decades ago, suggesting the sentimental male pianist persona required an independent audit of sorts. Call it fate or pure luck, but his Californian disappointments have resulted in Jesso being just the right man for the job. One does have to wonder if that impartial detachment flies out the window now that the shaggy-haired songwriter is a musician on the rise with friends in high places. However, negating that concern with regards to future prospects is the high room for improvement factor, especially concerning Jesso’s simple lyrics and lack of vocal confidence. With the timeless vocals of lead single ‘How Could You Babe"’ and the deceptively perceptive ‘Can We Still Be Friends"’ recalling Lennon & McCartney respectively, then we could just well have a prodigious talent on our hands!

Recommended Tracks: How Could You Babe", Just a Dream, Hollywood & Without You.




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user ratings (95)
Chart.
3.4
great

Comments:Add a Comment 
DaveyBoy
Emeritus
March 11th 2015


22486 Comments

Album Rating: 3.7

Album totally took me by surprise... As did the fact that he apparently has been rather hyped up over the past few months.



The best 6 tracks would have made for one hell of a debut EP. As it is, there’s too many flaws on the LP to rate it too highly.



klap
Staff Reviewer
March 11th 2015


12145 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

he has been getting pretty big in LA. album is good but i can't see it really holding my attention over a long period of time

Digging: Hot Chip - A Bath Full of Ecstasy

DaveyBoy
Emeritus
March 11th 2015


22486 Comments

Album Rating: 3.7

I get the feeling that's going to become nation-wide Rudy... And world wide, if one of the best 3 tracks finds a popular television or movie spot.



I'm still uncertain how this album will age. My guess is that those best 6 tracks will age exceptionally well, and the rest won't.

Pangea
March 11th 2015


3064 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Great review as always. The songs I've heard from are great, but they also wore off me really fast. Also a bit dissapointed that True Love didn't make the album, such a lovely song

Digging: Thom Yorke - Anima

DaveyBoy
Emeritus
March 11th 2015


22486 Comments

Album Rating: 3.7

Thanks Pangea. The highlights haven't worn off on me as yet, but who knows in the future. I guess that when you're talking fairly simple musical arrangements, there's very little that is hiding in the background to explore later on.



Yeah, I was a bit surprised that there was no 'True Love' here. Thankfully, 'Just A Dream' is, and I think that was his original demo.

SowingSeason
Moderator
March 11th 2015


31512 Comments


His voice was a pleasant surprise, I wasn't expecting him to have such a high level of adaptability. I love how he can sound like my new favorite indie-folk singer on 'Without You' and still belt out heartbroken ballads like 'How Could You Babe.' I thought about reviewing this too but this is great and sums up how I expect to feel about it when all is said & done. I agree with Rudy also though - it's good, but I don't know if it will have the same appeal months from now. It may be somewhere around a 3-3.5 for me, but we'll see. I do have a soft spot for songwriters like this.

Digging: The Flaming Lips - King's Mouth

DaveyBoy
Emeritus
March 11th 2015


22486 Comments

Album Rating: 3.7

Thanks Sowing. I do like the adaptability of his voice as well, but I actually think he can improve. You can tell that (rightly or wrongly) he lacks self-confidence in his own vocal prowess.



As for how the album ages, I try not to let that play too big a role in assessing a new release LP. I don't totally ignore that factor, but in most cases it's only a guessing game to some extent. Ditto - to a similar degree - re: the room for improvement factor, although I used that in my concluding paragraph more to mention a couple of deficiencies.

InfamousGrouse
March 11th 2015


4333 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Absolutely pumped to give this thing a listen after obsessing over his performance on La Blogotheque's YT channel a few months back.

DaveyBoy
Emeritus
March 11th 2015


22486 Comments

Album Rating: 3.7

The hype has steadily grown, that's for certain.



Just realised that he also played on Jimmy Fallon's talk show last week too. He looked a bit camera shy, from what I could tell.

psandy
March 11th 2015


280 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Excellent review, I definitely agree with you. It's certainly growing on me.

DaveyBoy
Emeritus
March 11th 2015


22486 Comments

Album Rating: 3.7

Glad you liked the review Patrick, since it wasn't an easy one to write. Then again, I might just be out of practice.



Interesting that the LP's growing on you, when others think it might not age well.

anobsoletevernacular
March 12th 2015


260 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

How Could You Babe has been my jam for the past few months, really excited to hear this.

Digging: Tomb Mold - Planetary Clairvoyance

henryChinaski
March 12th 2015


4232 Comments


Never heard of this guy, but it's pretty good. Haven't listened to this kind of music in ages. Glad I checked this out. Looking forward to the album. Nice write-up!

DaveyBoy
Emeritus
March 12th 2015


22486 Comments

Album Rating: 3.7

Don't get your expectations too high vernacular. You don't want to set up disappointment.



Thanks hC. The reason why you haven't listened to this kind of music in ages is probably because it hasn't existed in ages. unless you count Chris Martin, I guess.

henryChinaski
March 13th 2015


4232 Comments


You certainly have a point there haha. Definitely reminds me of some of Paul McCartney's solo stuff, but you already mentioned the Beatles in the recommended section anyway.
Currently listening to Goon. The opener is fantastic.

Hopelust
March 13th 2015


3450 Comments


Nice review, Davey. I'm somewhat interested.

Also, this guy has a pretty piercing gaze in that album cover art. Makes me want to hear what he's got to say.

DaveyBoy
Emeritus
March 13th 2015


22486 Comments

Album Rating: 3.7

Definitely agree on the McCartney comparisons... Especially, 'Can We Still Be Friends'. I have the opener as the 5th or 6th best song here. The top 3 are very close to each other in terms of quality, as are the next 3.



Thanks Hopelust. But does that gaze follow you around everywhere like the Mona Lisa does?





Soaringmuse
March 16th 2015


144 Comments


Reviews and ratings like this is why I read sputnik over p4k. They dickride him so hard and so unnecessarily.

DaveyBoy
Emeritus
March 16th 2015


22486 Comments

Album Rating: 3.7

Thanks.



It's a hype thing that they just get carried away with. Not that I visit there all that often, but they seem to have about 4 artists per year where they jump on early and borderline claim to be the body that push those artists to their success.



Having said that, I was surprised that they had not yet reviewed this album when I posted my review.

InfamousGrouse
March 16th 2015


4333 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Finally spinning this thing now since it's up on Spotify.



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