I know Jason Falkner released Bliss Descending as a gift to fans anxiously awaiting his next full-length studio release, due any month now. As such, he never intended it to be reviewed and held to critical scrutiny. However, since this five-song EP is cause for celebration, I'll give you the scoop regardless.
Jason Falkner remains very much the DIY musical wunderkind, a master of the well-crafted pop hook, a singer/songwriter and studio whiz who manages to play all instruments while producing himself. He does it all here (true to the form of his two previous solo albums) with the one exception being that Jeremy Stacy plays drums on the leadoff track.
Listening to Falkner's music is a joyous event -- his ebullience inspires smiles all around. There's a simple innocence and charm to the songs; he sings as though you're a confidante, and you get sucked into the whorl of pretty layered sounds and perfect fills. If these songs are a preview of the longer work upcoming, put me down for one now.
Starting in your left channel, then opening up to both, "The Neighbor" is Falkner in his most commercially viable mode, delivering an instantly accessible tune complete with a hooky repeating line chorus. Great guitars, strong drums, and wonderful harmonies complement weak rhyming lyrics that seem like something he'd meant to replace later (but never did): e.g., "I am the neighbor / I owe you a favor / Human behavior / To look for a savior".
All things considered, the weak lyrics are but a minor quibble. The basic idea comes across -- he loves this neighbor (hey, he gave her a fur coat -- but somehow never showed her that he wanted her from afar) and wants her to trust him in a very intimate way. And musically, the song is very strong.
Jason switches to a 6/8 rhythm (and gets to display some of his fine drumming skills) with his new version of "They Put Her in the Movies." A synthesizer accompaniment propels this fine song forward, along with emotive vocals and requisite harmonies. The arrangement choices are impeccable.
Again, Falkner's gift for creating memorable melodies is apparent. Listen to this song several times and just try to get it out of your head. Here the lyrics are great -- all about the concerns of his friend's newfound fame: "What do you know, they put her in the movies / Next thing you know she'll have no time for me / Not long ago she lived her life through me / Now what do you know, she's making a movie / I thought I was the only one / Now I wait like everyone / For a glimpse, a fleeting sigh, a tender look that will remind that she was mine".
"Feeling No Pain" tells of being hoodwinked into love with a silver-tongued hussy who turns ugly, and contains one of the most infectious guitar hook lines I've heard in some time. Falkner finds another intriguing time signature, and assembles around it a classic pop concoction with dark overtones and all kinds of musical accent flavors. Again, to say Falkner's studio talents are impressive is an understatement -- his layers and sounds are of a whole, never sounding anything less than that of a tight band at work.
The pleasant mid-tempo of the keyboard-driven "Moving Up" builds with a climbing guitar line, fine bass guitar, and eventual handclaps and harmonies (oh, the hooks abound relentlessly). The lyrical story is a variant from before: he loves this girl, but so does everyone else, so what is he supposed to do? This is yet another sweet melodic pop gem that reverberates after a few listens.
The fifth and final treat Mr. Falkner delivers is the delectable "Lost Myself". Here is Jason charming his way into your heart with spoken words amid the sung ones, just letting you know he's closer to the realization of a dream: "I was on the verge of something wonderful and you were gonna be a part of it / That is no lie / But I lost myself in you".
These 22 minutes and change whet the appetite for the larger treat soon to come. Bliss Descending is a small musical gift from one of the most talented artists out there. It's no mystery why he commands such respect from fellow musicians in Los Angeles and beyond. If you're a Jason Falkner fan, you have to have this -- if you don't know the man's music, this is another fine introduction to his distinguished brand of incredibly catchy melodic power pop.