Tobias Jesso, Jr. – Goon
There’s going back and then there’s going back. Vancouver singer-songwriter Tobias Jesso, Jr. is firmly in the latter camp, reaching back four decades into the 1970s to dredge up the ghosts of Harry Nilson, Billy Joel, and Elton John’s less ornate moments. His lyrics are open and honest; there are no layers at work anywhere, no necessary dissection of words to find some kind of hidden snark or metaphor. Look at the simple statements of “Can We Still Be Friends”: “And then one night he arrives to your surprise / Someone let him in and all you can say is / “I know it’s not the same but I’m glad you came / Can we still be friends?”” “Hollywood” comes straight out of the plaintive side of the Seventies piano man spectrum, coming across as a doomed letter home from someone who’d run off to chase their dreams. “Can’t Stop Thinking About You” is about as direct a statement of longing and regret you’re likely to find in 2015.
The plainness and honesty extends to the music, as well. Jesso has spent most of his life on the guitar, and his piano skills are the kind that you develop after only a couple of years of practice. There’s very little that can be considered flashy or ornamental here – some strings here, a couple of vintage studio tricks there – and the starkness feels all the more refreshing in the digital age. Goon is an album for the odd-corner moments in your life – something to belt out while showering, or put on when company’s over, or maybe just to listen to in the dark with a glass of red wine while you wonder what ever happened to that girl that used to love you.