-->
Music

Jason Falkner: Bliss Descending EP

Gary Glauber

Jason Falkner

Bliss Descending EP

Label: Wreckchord
US Release Date: 2004-02-27
Amazon
iTunes

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.

In Americana music the present is female. Two-thirds of our year-end list is comprised of albums by women. Here, then, are the women (and a few men) who represented the best in Americana in 2017.

If a single moment best illustrates the current divide between Americana music and mainstream country music, it was Sturgill Simpson busking in the street outside the CMA Awards in Nashville. While Simpson played his guitar and sang in a sort of renegade-outsider protest, Garth Brooks was onstage lip-syncindg his way to Entertainer of the Year. Americana music is, of course, a sprawling range of roots genres that incorporates traditional aspects of country, blues, soul, bluegrass, etc., but often represents an amalgamation or reconstitution of those styles. But one common aspect of the music that Simpson appeared to be championing during his bit of street theater is the independence, artistic purity, and authenticity at the heart of Americana music. Clearly, that spirit is alive and well in the hundreds of releases each year that could be filed under Americana's vast umbrella.

Keep reading... Show less

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less
Music

The Best Country Music of 2017

still from Midland "Drinkin' Problem" video

There are many fine country musicians making music that is relevant and affecting in these troubled times. Here are ten of our favorites.

Year to year, country music as a genre sometimes seems to roll on without paying that much attention to what's going on in the world (with the exception of bro-country singers trying to adopt the latest hip-hop slang). That can feel like a problem in a year when 58 people are killed and 546 are injured by gun violence at a country-music concert – a public-relations issue for a genre that sees many of its stars outright celebrating the NRA. Then again, these days mainstream country stars don't seem to do all that well when they try to pivot quickly to comment on current events – take Keith Urban's muddled-at-best 2017 single "Female", as but one easy example.

Keep reading... Show less

It's ironic that by injecting a shot of cynicism into this glorified soap opera, Johnson provides the most satisfying explanation yet for the significance of The Force.

Despite J.J. Abrams successfully resuscitating the Star Wars franchise with 2015's Star Wars: The Force Awakens, many fans were still left yearning for something new. It was comforting to see old familiar faces from a galaxy far, far away, but casual fans were unlikely to tolerate another greatest hits collection from a franchise already plagued by compositional overlap (to put it kindly).

Keep reading... Show less
7

Yeah Yeah Yeahs played a few US shows to support the expanded reissue of their debut Fever to Tell.

Although they played a gig last year for an after-party for a Mick Rock doc, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs hadn't played a proper NYC show in four years before their Kings Theatre gig on November 7th, 2017. It was the last of only a handful of gigs, and the only one on the East coast.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image