Tobias Jesso Jr.
Goon (Arts & Crafts)
Where did this guy come from? Not only is Goon Tobias Jesso Jr.’s debut album, it’s also apparently the first batch of songs he’s written, or at least the first that have seen life beyond his bedroom. It is also the first material the erstwhile bass guitarist has written on the piano, an instrument he started playing at the age of 27, which is also when he started singing. To put that in perspective, it’s worth noting that he is now 29.
He certainly doesn’t sound like a newcomer. His keyboard work isn’t flashy, but it’s certainly serviceable (even if it often sounds like he’s about to segue into the theme song from Cheers). The real revelation is his voice, which displays not only his facility with beautiful melodies, but also his sardonic humour. When, on “Hollywood”, he sings, “I think I’m gonna die in Hollywood,” he does so in such a dry, deadpan fashion that he could be accused of sad-boy moping. Jesso is far too clever to be taken solely at face value, however, as he proves on the wry “Crocodile Tears”: “My baby, she loves to see me cry/Boo-hoo.”
Jesso might be reinventing the wheel here; the sensitive-piano-man thing has certainly been done before, and he’s pretty much guaranteed to garner Harry Nilsson and Randy Newman comparisons until he’s sick of them. The thing is, though, Jesso is really good at this. After all, you don’t get mentioned in the same sentence as Nilsson and Newman unless you know what the hell you’re doing.
Okay, maybe he’s not quite in that league yet. But give this guy time; he’s just getting started. If his first batch of songs is this good, just imagine what the second will be like.