Josiah Johnson: Every Feeling On a Loop (ANTI-) Review | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Thursday, September 24th, 2020  

Josiah Johnson

Every Feeling On a Loop

ANTI-

Sep 10, 2020 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share


Most people probably won’t immediately recognize Josiah Johnson’s name if they know it at all (the poor guy’s Wikipedia link on Spotify currently goes to a retired Liberian soccer star’s page). The erstwhile founder and leader of Seattle’s The Head and the Heart has been out of the band and off the broader music radar going on four years now. His much publicized struggles with addiction led to his departure from the group back in early 2016 and little has been heard of him since. Rumors of an album started to emerge in late 2018, but with nothing materializing and The Head and the Heart achieving pop rock standard bearer status in the meantime it seemed Johnson was destined to become another footnote lost to the mists of a band’s earlier days. 

So it comes of something of a surprise that not only has Johnson appeared with a new album that supersedes most of his group’s prior output, but that Every Feeling On a Loop is not only a revelatory hour-long exploration of lost hope and redemption, but primarily of the joy in just being. With most of the tracks pushing the five-minute mark, and several well past that, it’s hard to imagine what an artist whose prior high water marks were some fairly straightforward indie folk songs was going to do within those constructs. Not to fear, and perhaps with a touch of hyperbole, but Every Feeling On a Loop is the modern day equivalent of Van Morrison having recorded “Gloria” and “Brown Eyed Girl” and then out of nowhere laying down Astral Weeks. 

The opening “False Alarms” quickly reminds the listener of the spark The Head and the Heart has been missing for some time, but over its six-minute course adds in strings and horns as Johnson’s emboldened reentry to the musical map. The song is filled with snippets of advice given with an air of honesty but also with care, such as “do the work to keep yourself open to other people’s magic.” The three-song core of the album emerges shortly thereafter with the odd opening line of “Nobody Knows”—“I always thought I’d be a potted plant.” Inscrutable as that seems the song bursts forth with horns and backing vocals and the command to “stop hiding” which is later peppered with Johnson’s joyous whoops. As much as “Nobody Knows” is highly propulsive, the following “I Wish I Had” finds tension in its halting cadence. The confessional wells of deep regret—“I wouldn’t let you in, you had to wait in the dark”—give way to the song’s gentle groove, making it a clear highlight of the album. That’s followed by the delicate unfolding seven minutes of “Rise Up.” which belies its gentle percussion with an unwavering certainty that the sun will rise each morning. Johnson and his backing vocalist command “Just breathe!” as a mantra.

The album’s first single, “World’s Not Gonna End,” may veer closest to his prior band’s pulse until the clarion call of horns towards the end, but it also evidences Johnson’s current perspective on things. The track lists out personal failings, but the promise of the song’s title is not delivered as a throwaway phrase but as a momentous declaration. The song also evidences one of several gender fluid approaches as Johnson sings of “the modern woman in me” without any air of irony. The theme emerges more fully on “Woman In a Man’s Life” and adds an element of mystery as to whether Johnson is getting in touch with his feminine side or cataloging those involved in his rehabilitation. 

The album’s title makes its appearance later on in another longer track, “Hey Kid,” that could pass as Johnson’s song to himself. The slower acoustic number gives way to piano and washes of organ as Johnson decries “every feeling on a loop, that’s the cord from me to you.” Elsewhere the one song that goes for a bit of experimentation, “Waiting On You,” sounds like an outtake from Radiohead’s Kid A with its frayed electrical pulses and pushed vocals. And in the closer’s finger-picked ramble, “Solve Problems,” Johnson leaves us with the reminder that every addict comes to know—“you gotta climb out of that black hole, you gotta do it every day on your own.”  The musical world is much better off for Johnson’s journey back from the brink and the delivery of Every Feeling On a Loop. He shows us that grasping on to the imperceptible curve of one’s little plot of land is not just cold comfort, but a cause for daily celebration. (www.josiahjohnsons.com)   

Author rating: 8/10

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Average reader rating: 8/10



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