Goddamn Electric Bill: Jazz

What's the sound of one talent blossoming? Goddamn Electric Bill.

Goddamn Electric Bill


Label: Pro.Con
US Release Date: 2011-02-08
UK Release Date: 2011-02-08
Label website
Artist website

Goddamn Electric Bill sounds like a pissed-off and confrontational band name and the album title Jazz pretty much points to one general genre of music. Judge this release by both of those merits and you're batting zero. Goddamn Electric Bill is the work of indie musician Jason Torbert, whose latest claim to fame outside this moniker is scoring the film Douchebag. His approach to composing is by finding the magic in the overdubs, the emotions of texture, and the joys of repetition. Torbert records all of the music by himself with guitars, electronics, and occasionally deeply buried vocals. Come to think of it, his "band" name is probably something he mutters to himself once a month when retrieving his mail due to a high traffic of electrical currents within his recording facility.

As for the album's title, it could have something to do with how this release is perceived to be brighter (bouncier?) than Torbert's two previous albums. Indeed, the prior Topics for Gossip was filled with a lot of head-hangers, songs that reveled in a minor key and didn't sound like they really wanted to be cheered up. If a song had a groove to it, there was a raincloud hovering not too far above. Jazz, however, feels like someone pulled Torbert aside and said "c'mon man, jazz it up!"

In freeing up the spirit of the music, we see that Torbert is not tied down to any one style. And in spite of that, Jazz hangs together exceptionally well. The album begins with a stretch-and-yawn track if there ever was one on "Birth of a Star". If we follow this analogy further, then "Pull the Lever" is the song for grabbing your things, heading out the door and driving to wherever it is you’re going. This is one of the few times on the album where Torbert flirts with the idea of building a "song" in the conventional sense. But in such a propulsive synth-pop tune, it seems a little counter-intuitive to downplay the vocals to the point where the lyrics are just another impressionistic element in the mix. Then again, no one ever said that Jason Torbert follows everything to the letter and "Pull the Lever" is quite the hypnotic brew of electronic pop.

In other places, I swear you'll never be so glad to hear a simplistic vamp than on "The End of 2008" or a dainty, cyclical guitar motif on "End Credits". He manages to stretch things even further on the sparse and lovely "Hibiscus" as well as the floating, ether-induced "Spectacle Rock." Jazz wraps up with "Fairytale Orchestra", another instrumental nugget of great synthetic power undermined by a refusal to harmonically resolve. In other words, a bittersweet end to a somewhat-peppy album.

Learning that Jason Torbert has recorded music for television and film doesn't come as a big surprise when listening to Goddamn Electric Bill. Stuff like this could easily slip into a Wes Anderson movie. But Jazz demonstrates that Torbert's talents can be enjoyed without a visual element. In fact, Jazz is just a very good album from a musician who understands the maximum impact of simple sounds.






West London's WheelUP Merges Broken Beat and Hip-Hop on "Stay For Long" (premiere)

West London producer WheelUP reached across the pond to Brint Story to bring some rapid-fire American hip-hop to his broken beat revival on "Stay For Long".


PM Picks Playlist 4: Stellie, The Brooks, Maude La​tour

Today's playlist features the premiere of Stellie's "Colours", some top-class funk from the Brooks, Berne's eco-conscious electropop, clever indie-pop from Maude Latour, Jaguar Jonze rocking the mic, and Meresha's "alien pop".


Plattetopia: The Prefabrication of Utopia in East Berlin

With the fall of the Berlin Wall came the licence to take a wrecking ball to its nightmare of repression. But there began the unwritten violence of Die Wende, the peaceful revolution that hides the Oedipal violence of one order killing another.


Electrosoul's Flõstate Find "Home Ground" on Stunning Song (premiere)

Flõstate are an electrosoul duo comprised of producer MKSTN and singer-songwriter Avery Florence that create a mesmerizing downtempo number with "Home Ground".


Orchestra Baobab Celebrate 50 Years with Vinyl of '​Specialist in All Styles'

As Orchestra Baobab turn 50, their comeback album Specialist in All Styles gets a vinyl reissue.


Hot Chip Stay Up for 'Late Night Tales'

Hot Chip's contribution to the perennial compilation project Late Night Tales is a mixed bag, but its high points are consistent with the band's excellence.


The Budos Band Call for Action on "The Wrangler" (premiere)

The Budos Band call on their fans for action with the powerful new track "The Wrangler" that falls somewhere between '60s spy thriller soundtrack and '70s Ethiojazz.


Creature Comfort's "Woke Up Drunk" Ruminates on Our Second-Guesses (premiere)

A deep reflection on breaking up, Nashville indie rock/Americana outfit Creature Comfort's "Woke Up Drunk" is the most personal track from their new album, Home Team.


For Don DeLillo, 'The Silence' Is Deafening

In Don DeLillo's latest novel, The Silence, it is much like our post-pandemic life -- everything changed but nothing happened. Are we listening?


Brett Newski Plays Slacker Prankster on "What Are You Smoking?" (premiere)

Is social distancing something we've been doing, unwittingly, all along? Brett Newski pulls some pranks, raises some questions in "What Are You Smoking?".


What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .


Becky Warren Shares "Good Luck" and Discusses Music and Depression

Becky Warren finds slivers of humor while addressing depression for the third time in as many solo concept albums, but now the daring artist is turning the focus on herself in a fight against a frightful foe.


Fleet Foxes Take a Trip to the 'Shore'

On Shore, Fleet Foxes consist mostly of founding member Robin Pecknold. Recording with a band in the age of COVID-19 can be difficult. It was just time to make this record this way.


'We're Not Here to Entertain' Is Not Here to Break the Cycle of Punk's Failures

Even as it irritates me, Kevin Mattson's We're Not Here to Entertain is worth reading because it has so much direct relevance to American punks operating today.


Uncensored 'Native Son' (1951) Is True to Richard Wright's Work

Compared to the two film versions of Native Son in more recent times, the 1951 version more acutely captures the race-driven existential dread at the heart of Richard Wright's masterwork.


3 Pairs of Boots Celebrate Wandering on "Everywhere I Go" (premiere)

3 Pairs of Boots are releasing Long Rider in January 2021. The record demonstrates the pair's unmistakable chemistry and honing of their Americana-driven sound, as evidenced by the single, "Everywhere I Go".


'World War 3 Illustrated #51: The World We Are Fighting For'

World War 3 Illustrated #51 displays an eclectic range of artists united in their call to save democracy from rising fascism.


Tiphanie Doucet's "You and I" Is an Exercise in Pastoral Poignancy (premiere)

French singer-songwriter Tiphanie Doucet gives a glimpse of her upcoming EP, Painted Blue, via the sublimely sentimental ode, "You and I".

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.