If I’m being honest, I had no idea who Tobias Jesso was until the Pitchfork lineup was released a couple weeks ago. I looked at everyone playing, made a list of those I didn’t know, and went about checking out their music. Jesso is the only one that really took me by surprise. He’s got a rich, intoxicating voice that harkens back to 70’s singer/songwriters like Harry Nilsson and Jim Croce. Oddly, I also hear a little Peter Beckett (lead singer of Player) in there too. It’s just a gorgeous tone that flows perfectly through all 12 tracks of Goon.
There is a modern comparison one could make, and that’s Christopher Owens (Ed.Note: and now that I’m thinking of it, Nik Freitas). I’m not sure if that’s real, or just because JR White is one of the producers on the album and that’s the sound he goes for. Jesso also gets production help from The Black Keys’ Patrick Carney, and chart-topping producer Ariel Reichstand. Add in a drum cameo from Danielle Haim and you’ve got quite a pedigree for someone’s first album.
The talent shines through, and Jesso wins you over even if you try to fight against it. There’s something about the heartfelt delivery of these mostly simple and honest lyrics that is quite endearing. The sparseness of his piano and voice on the record really draws the listener in, making already intimate music into something more. That emptiness also makes the big moments on the record, like the heavy beats and strings on “Crocodile Tears,” all the more exciting.
It’s hard to believe that playing the piano is just something Jesso started doing in his free time after moving back home to Vancouver following a bad breakup in LA. At the same time, it makes perfect sense with these songs. And if he were some kind of virtuoso the record would feel much different, most likely for the worse. Listen to how perfectly the piano and vocals go together in this Take Away Show from La Blogotheque:
There’s still a couple weeks before Goon comes out, so you have plenty of time to get acquainted with Tobias Jesso before you pick up your copy. This is one of those albums you’ll want to get right away so that in four or five months when your friends start talking about him you can say “Oh I’ve had that record since it came out! Where’ve you been?” It trades bangers for beauty, and there aren’t enough artists doing that today.
Go check out his show if you’re on the east or west coast. He starts in Toronto on March 22nd and heads out to Europe in May. You can find all his dates here. And you can pre-order a copy of Goon here.