The Austin Chronicle

Phases & Stages

Reviewed by Abby Johnston, April 24, 2015, Music

Los Angeles-via-Vancouver songwriter Tobias Jesso Jr.'s Goon comes across more like basement tapes reissued than a debut, akin to early demos from Randy Newman or Harry Nilsson – two artists he told The Guardian he'd never listened to. Tempting to call bullshit on the 29-year-old natural given that the piano balladry of Goon runs so deeply in that vein. "How Could You Babe" leads in with bright keys, clunking along with the choppy progressions of someone who added the ivories to their repertoire only recently, yet the revelatory chorus climaxes with a pure dose of emotion that will mark his career. Simple chord hammers, the demure "Without You" comes enhanced by little more than muted drumming, which allows his Girls-esque, sad-boy songcraft to take center stage. Like Aussie sensation Courtney Barnett, Jesso arrives with the apparent ability to spin anything, even a tiff between friends, into a song. "Can We Still Be Friends" thus pleads for fraternal forgiveness. ("Don't you hate it when you mess up with a friend?") Like his piano chops, his lyrics are no-frills expressions, ripe and ready to be groomed into something even bigger.


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