Published Mar 13, 2015Don't believe the hype for one second: Tobias Jesso Jr. is in no way, shape or form "cool" — at least traditionally speaking. After all, this is a 6-foot-7 piano-playing Canadian from North Vancouver whose ultimate goal is to win a Grammy and collaborate with Adele (a hero of his). So don't feel bad if you had him pegged for more of Harry Nilsson/Randy Newman/Elton John kind of guy; they may not be favourite artists of his, but his name might well be mentioned in the same breath as them one day.
That's because, after years spent in a the Killers-esque synth-pop crew, playing bass for a teen popstar wannabe and living the Hollywood dream, Jesso Jr. finally decided to go it alone, sit down at a piano and write the perfect pop song. He nearly accomplishes that — 12 times, in fact — on his brilliant and emotional debut, Goon.
After a little over two years spent learning the piano (and getting used to his singing voice) Jesso Jr. has swiped all the best singer-songwriter moves from Paul McCartney ("Can We Still Be Friends," "Can't Be Without You"), John Lennon ("Just A Dream") and Alex Chilton ("The Wait") and created a melodic, melancholy and stripped-down monster of an album that eschews glossy pop production for a simpler, straightforward sound.
Much has been made of Jesso Jr.'s backstory, a mythical and meteoric rise to fame that includes a cancer scare, automobile accident and major breakup, among other things. But it's not like you'd find each of those moments mentioned explicitly in his lyrics; like all good pop songwriters, Jesso Jr. is a master of making personal moments seem universal, with most of his words seeming like parts of a hazy memory rather than a concrete story.
Jesso Jr. undoubtedly has a long career ahead of him, and although the buzz sometimes makes it seem like this could be his crowning achievement, Goon is more of a benchmark (albeit, a pretty high one) from which he can judge all future songs of his. The end result is a pretty extraordinary album, but what makes Goon really special is the future it hints at. (Arts & Crafts)