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One Man’s Anguish: Ben on Josiah Wolf’s Solo Debut

Posted by May 14th, 2010 No Comments »

Josiah Wolf – Jet Lag
Anticon Records
By Ben Allen

“It’s the kind of jet lag / That makes a man want to weep.”

When singer/songwriter Josiah Wolf utters this sentiment on his solo debut, Jet Lag, you feel for him. He’s not speaking about what happens when travelling between time zones. Rather, he’s summing up the devastation and heartbreak caused by the ending of his eleven year marriage.

All twelve tracks contain lyrical content related to the dissolution of this relationship. They are full of self-doubt, open ended questions and musings on post-breakup life. Wolf is still genuinely hurt and confused, and he seems to have little resolution so far.

The somewhat cornily-titled “The Apart Meant” relates Wolf’s home to his grieving process. “My apartment smells like divorce/Unused I love yous build up in my throat.”

On “The New Car,” he tells the story of purchasing a new vehicle. On the way home he and his ex begin to argue and it culminates in her stating “you’ve wasted my 20’s.” Devastated, he drives on in silence, unable to retort.

Wolf’s few non-literal attempts at surrealistic lyrical content seem slightly out of place on this otherwise personal, confessional record. On “The Opposite of Breathing,” he waits for a “Thomas Edison/ With seven heads/ To come from the sea.” It’s a confusing sentiment in an otherwise candid song.

In general, though, Wolf’s words seem carefully crafted and well thought out. It’s the music on Jet Lag that feels uneven.

Wolf is competent on a number of instruments; he played everything on the record, including guitar, drums, kalimba, vibes, bass, bells and organ. He’s at his best when he keeps the compositions minimalistic, subtle and pretty, like on “Master Cleanse (California)” and album closer “The One Sign.” The latter features mostly softly plucked acoustic guitar and hushed, whispered vocals and ends with one full minute of the sound of rain. You feel like you’ve just dropped in on Josiah sadly composing this testament to lost love in his apartment, while a storm rages outside.

Album opener “The Truck and The Trailer” sounds most like WHY? (the band Josiah plays in with his brother Yoni), with vibes and shorts blasts of drums. Other tracks sound more rushed, like ideas were desperately thrown together in order to complete a song, such as “In the Seam.”

It’s impossible to listen to Jet Lag without making comparisons to WHY?, and fans expecting something as brilliant as the group’s 2008 genre defying pop masterpiece Alopeica will be disappointed. Jet Lag more closely resembles Alopecia’s more sensitive, intimate sister album Eskimo Snow (2009), but doesn’t have the same knack for pop-hook intuition and playful, abstract lyrics that makes his younger brother’s compositions so irresistible.

While Jet Lag obviously serves as a therapeutic vehicle for this traumatic time in Wolf’s life, it would have greatly benefited from more cohesion. A collection of minimal, acoustic guitar and hushed vocal tracks may have been more appropriate this time out.

If nothing else, Wolf’s anguish is expressed in an honest, engaging manner that anyone who has suffered heartbreak can relate to. – (7/10)

Jet Lag is in stores now. Josiah Wolf performs at The Vera Project May 26. Ben Allen? He has big hair.

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