reviewed by Chris Matei
To some songwriters, music is a way to condense multiple complicated abstracts into concrete form. For Toronto’s JonoJosh, the Outside EP seems to function in reverse of that principle: it unpacks one central idea along a set of inventive, creative and genuinely personal artistic axes.
Outside clearly revolves around desire in all its forms. It can be the desire for self-actualization, as on opener “Birds” or the lushly produced title track, where JonoJosh establishes some of the core themes of his work as a producer and performer. These include a blend of sonic signatures from classic R&B and soul and modern, James Blake-ian downtempo electro, not to mention a sizeable nod to old school hip hop production techniques and even some Hendrix-inspired shredding. All of these elements are bound together by Josh’s emotive vocal style, which pulses with more warmth, personality and poetic energy than many of his chilly neo-soul-grooved contemporaries.
Desire manifests in lust across Outside as well – “Fleeting Gaze” and “Hypnotized” focus on JonoJosh’s exploration of relationships both real and imagined. The need for deep connection crying out in the vocals is contrasted against thick pads that stutter and chop, creating motion in the high-concept hip hop ballad structures that JonoJosh employs throughout Outside. These tracks show how the dedication to quality production on this record really stands out: for its inventiveness (check out the viscerally digital banger of of a closer “IYGS”), its mixing of genres and time frames, and its seamlessly hi-fi musicality.
Outside is a thoroughly modern, soulful, poetic, and thoughtful reflection on all the things we desire: love, confidence, and the need to break through to something beyond the daily grind. It’s equal parts exaltation-soul, introspection-and-beats, celebration funk, digital groove, heart on sleeve and high concept.
Top Tracks: “IYGS,” “Birds,” “Outside”
Rating: Proud Hoot (Really Good) + *swoop*