Click to hear: “Pure Land”
Want to know how to impress a jaded music critic? Follow Justin Boss’ example.
First, write a thoughtful letter praising the critic’s publication (You’re welcome, Justin!) and explaining how your album came to be. Note that the album was intended to be written, recorded and mixed within one month’s time, and admit that you almost met that goal. Point out that all the songs deal with an atheist’s critique of organized religion, and give yourself credit for designing and assembling the CD sleeve and hand-stitching the little lyric booklet enclosed.
Secondly, and most importantly, fill the CD with gorgeous pop ballads and catchy rock songs that get better with each listen.
That’s what Boss did, and this is the review that results.
The.Ist is fantastic. Boss, who recently moved to Maine from the other Portland, is a major talent. He can sing, he can write great hooks, and he can apparently play pretty much any instrument he gets his mitts on.
The opener, “Pure Land,” is a thing of beauty, a ballad anchored in piano, with lush vocal harmonies, some subtle tape manipulation and a nifty little guitar solo. The next track, “The Ascetic,” turns whatever expectations you had after hearing “Pure Land” upside down. It rumbles and rocks, boasting a chorus you’d expect to hear on a Faith No More album (no pun intended).
The atheism theme is handled deftly, wrapped in poetic lyrics like those that open “Pure Land”: “It’s all simple somehow / The clouds give way to light / And it’s bright / But it’s nothing.” This theme occasionally leads to arresting lyrics like “There’s blood in your wine / Or so I’ve been told,” from “Eucharist,” or “Here is my blood/ shedding for you / now give me your tongue,” from “The Silent Deed.”
Other highlights among the eight tracks here: the alternately strutting and sighing rocker “Double J;” the Frank Blackish “Silent Deed;” and (speaking of the Pixies) “If Man Is Five,” an indie-rock nugget that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Cult Maze album. The.Ist ends with another gorgeous ballad, the melancholy “Seaweeds & Jellies.”
This album ain’t perfect — several songs could be shorter, like “Twilight,” which should lose its entire two-minute, tape-blip outro — but it’s damn close. It’s exciting to contemplate the album Boss could make given two months…
— Chris Busby
Justin Boss will be the featured performer at the Free Street Open Mic held Wed., Sept. 10, at the Dogfish Bar and Grille, 128 Free St., Portland, at 7 p.m. Free (18+). myspace.com/justineffable.