First Impressions: Tobias Jesso, Jr., “Goon”

goonTobias Jesso Jr. has generated no small amount of buzz with his debut album, Goon—including a Best New Music distinction from Pitchfork and well-received turns on both Jimmy Fallon and Conan—and that in itself is sort of a remarkable thing: The record is almost defiantly low-key and aggressively old-fashioned, to the extent that the words defiant and aggressive can even be used when describing music so unhurried and seemingly casual. It’s a throwback to the singer-songwriter era of the 1970s, a predominantly piano-based pop album made the way Randy Newman and Tom Waits used to make ‘em.

Of course Jesso doesn’t have the personality of either of those men, but that’s a bit unfair. His record is plainspoken, earnest, and classicist, and even if you haven’t heard “How Could You Babe” you can probably get a pretty good idea of what it’s about just from the title. The pleasures of the album are in its craft—in the stalwart melodies, the slow build of the songs, the everyman soulfulness in Jesso’s voice—and as such it’s underwhelming at first but grows more charming with each endearing listen. Nothing about it is new, but the way it springs so fresh-faced and wide-eyed into tried-and-true craft is invigorating in its own right.

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