Goon is primarily written about an unnamed love interest but does focus on other aspects of Jesso Jr.’s life, specifically his life as a journeyman early in his musical career.
The past few years have seen many music listeners tirelessly complain about music not being as good as it used to. No matter the genre, a majority of music consumers were hell-bent on typing nostalgic fueled comments on every song that didn’t sound like the “golden age” of that respective genre. After listening to Tobias Jesso Jr.’s debut album Goon, that go-to argument might be a bit harder to utilize. The Vancouver Indie/Alternative Rocker’s highly anticipated projected exceeded its expectations and has landed in many listeners’ personal bests for the first quarter of 2015. Tobias Jesso Jr. began learning piano while working for a moving company, and in 2013 started writing and recording songs for what would soon become Goon.
Tobias Jesso Jr.’s Goon strikes the return of the Male Piano Balladeer. It’s an ode to singers and songwriters of the 60’s and 70’s who wrote about concepts in a more poetic manor than their musical peers. Right off the bat with the first song, “Can’t Stop Thinking about You,” Jesso Jr. is only aided by a piano and a classical voice as he sings about love and his romantic obsession with an unnamed woman. This song is nothing short of a Lennon/McCartney classic during the latter half of the Beatles career, which is followed perfectly by “How Could You Babe.” Tobias Jesso Jr. follows a very common formula in order to provide a stellar vocal performance, which is to calmly sing as the drums and piano slowly become more intense during the verse, exploding for a very passionate chorus. He shouts “How Could You Babe” to the point of his voice cracking which conveys a sense of desperation, a perfect example of why every note and every chord is an essential competent to story telling.
Goon is primarily written about an unnamed love interest but does focus on other aspects of Jesso Jr.’s life, specifically his life as a journeyman early in his musical career. Jesso Jr. was the former bassist for the band the Sessions back in the in the second half of the 2000’s and early 2010’s, achieving minimal success and eventually moved back to Vancouver. During his time as a bassist he lived in Los Angeles. His time spent living in California seems to be a time of depression, self-doubt, and broken dreams. In his song “Hollywood” he sings, “I said my prayers every night since 1995/And I pray, God help me, I’ve done the best I could/But I think I’m gonna die in Hollywood.” Tobias is questioning his morals and his mental health, seeking God’s pity as he realizes that his best may have not been good enough all along. His death can be seen as metaphorical, taking on many different meanings.
Los Angeles and his unnamed love interest come together in Goon’s second to last song entitled “Leaving LA.” By this point in the album, everything has come full circle. A more upbeat song, led by a simply few chords on a piano and an occasional appearance by a smooth bass line, Tobias Jesso Jr. has found some closure on what comes next in his life. He no longer seems desperate for his unnamed love interest, allowing her the freedom to be alone. He has also come to accept the idea of leaving Los Angeles and heading back home. However, in this story, one of the two actually happen as he sings “Move town, there’s nothing left around here without her/I wonder, will she make it wherever she may go?/She listens as I say to her/You don’t have to be alone.”
By the albums end, you have a clear understanding of Tobias Jesso Jr., not only as a songwriter, but as a person as he gives you an insight to the past few years of his life. With help from Patrick Carney of the Black Keys, John Collins of the New Pornographers and Ariel Rechtshaid, Goon has shaped up to be one of the most impressive albums of the past year. Raw emotion, passionate storytelling, and classical piano ballad influences have played a pivotal role in the project; in return fans have shown to be in favor of the re-emergence of the “Piano Man.” It’ll be interesting to see how he progresses as an artist and as a storyteller, but assuming he stays true to himself as a writer, his sophomore album can shape up to be just as impressive. You can stream Goon on Spotify below.
By: Romel Lherisson