Covid-19 created havoc throughout every sphere of life for almost two years. Of all the damage done, the subsequent isolation from everything that makes you feel human was the worst for many people. Confined to his apartment, zoom-distance meetings, and the walls of his mind, GOSS spent this time increasingly succumbing to a crippling feeling of dread. Images of the pandemic, the ravages of climate change, and daily published body counts contributed to GOSS developing stress depression. How do you respond to that? Building on the fundamentals of the outstanding debut album, Group Therapy (2020), GOSS’ sophomore album, I Feel Like Planet Earth addresses his condition and links it to the state of our planet.
GOSS is Danish-born singer, producer, and instrumentalist Mads Damsgaard Kristensen, and he’s been busy writing music for a while now. Most notably, Mads fronted the dance-punk-duo, Reptile Youth (2009-2015). He has since collaborated with and written songs for Mø, English singer and producer SOHN, and the Danish singing pop duo Barcelona, among many others.
In 2017 Mads released his first EPs, the critically acclaimed and brilliantly named, Healthcare and follow-up Homeland Security under his new moniker, GOSS. On these EPs and even more so on Group Therapy, GOSS throws country, R&B, indietronica, jazz, and Spanish guitar pop into a mix that’s a unique blend all of his own. These elements have settled in on I Feel Like Planet Earth, allowing new subtle musical surprises to counterpose the emotional toil that persists throughout the album.
The songs on I Feel Like Planet Earth have titles that sound burdened, blue, and isolated, and It’s startling how hard-hitting and bleak the lyrics are, taken in isolation. “I wanna go to the ocean / Every wave is a step / Back to who I used to be / And the kid inside of me / I wanna go … There must be a reason why we got saltwater in our eyes.” “Ocean” starts the album with weary lyrics, but the music soothes like a gospel psalm with Spanish guitar fingerpicking and an easygoing drum machine beat. When GOSS pushes the sliders up, we go with him to church.
There are many infectious songs here. “Copenhagen Bluebird” snakes its way in with its mandolin-accompanied chorus, and the jungle-vibed outro takes us by surprise and beats the song to a darker place. “Mad Man” is a dancefloor filler with a chorus “When I’m just trying not to / Grow out / Of this life of mine” that will get you to ‘do the split’ one too many times.
“Set Them Free” featuring the Chilian/Danish reggaeton star, Ivan$ito is the second of two guest appearances. With its autotune Español rapping and Spanish guitar playing, it almost comes off as a joke, but the propulsive beat, Ivan$ito’s tight delivery, and catchy chorus keep it upright. “Blue” features Danish singer Mercedes, and while she has a beautiful tone of voice, the match and song arrangement come off predictable and airplay-friendly. Generally, GOSS doesn’t need any guests, his own presence and vocal warmth deserve all the limelight it can get.
This dichotomy between the lyrics and the music, the mood, and the vocal delivery is a central theme. There are natural forces at play here that push/pull and oppose each other. This contest of strength peaks at the halfway point on “It’s Not the Same World, But It’s the Same World”. Here the lyrics are caught in a monotonous loop: the words are shackled while the music constantly evolves, changes, writhes and wants to break loose. The lyrics and music sit opposite each other on the sonic spectrum.
From here on, the music starts to lose ground, and the heaviness of the lyrics starts to suck out the light of their surroundings. “Adrenaline” gives us one last catchy kick before “Sorrow” pulls the curtains. “Me and my friends are remixes of each other / And the apathy spreads like a yawn / I think this summer’s gonna hit like a hummer / It feels as if the life we lived is gone / Adrenaline / Adrenaline / Restart the system, wake up the brain.” “Adrenaline” is an ultra-effective earworm stomper with its basic drums, bass, and guitar and a crucial brief keyboard figure that helps lift the chorus.
Where the sun rose with “Ocean”, “Sorrow” sets the sun on the album. The Spanish guitar is prominent again, but it sounds fragile; its warmth has dispersed. “I’ve tried to talk it out / But the words can’t seem to transport this kinda cargo.” The mood is Scandinavian winter, and a musical saw can be heard faintly in the background until the song abruptly ends.
On I Feel Like Planet Earth, GOSS gathers all his musical arsenal and stacks it into the brevity of the pop song. Everything is at stake here, but GOSS transforms his struggle into a dance, which is a more powerful act than we might think.