is a San Francisco-based musician proudly blurring the stylistic lines between gloomy post-punk and shiny indie rock.
His latest effort Junk Values
is a perfect example of this approach. Album opener The Arc of Youth
takes no prisoners. Its melancholic melodies combined with dizzy borderline-psychedelic harmonies and a hint of disillusion in the vocal approach along with uptempo indie rock production instantly bring to mind Elliott Smith's days in Heatmiser.Tragedy Dolls
is a slower, janglier tune that sounds like David Bowie teaming up with early R.E.M. for a radio-friendly piece. What makes the song a thing of its own sonically is the creative use of reverberation, textural guitars in the chorus and its meditative synth solo.Dark Horse Dreams
shows us another side of James Beastly. The relaxed bluesy verses are reminiscent of The Rolling Stones' ballads, both sonically and lyrically. And the uptempo chorus with its walls of raging guitars undoubtedly releases tons of energy when played live.Ghost Species
brings in some theatrical and cinematic vibes by utilizing surf guitars and vocal melodies that hint at Tom Waits. James's vocalizing sounds, well... ghostly! And this part could also soundtrack a chilling movie scene.
The Absurd Horizon starts with resonant textures and relaxed guitars that sound like they come straight from ambient music and continues into a bluesy tune with minimalistic arrangement that leaves a lot of room for the vocals to breathe and also makes great use of ambient textures, bringing in a fresh note to the sound.
On the title track James goes merciless on himself, but the music is head-spinningly optimistic. The track's lush strings and light-footed groove make an emotionally resonant contrast with the bittersweet song.Vacant Games
is another tune that must sound great live. It uses the album's go-to trick by contrasting chill verses against sonically dense, upbeat choruses. James's vocal performance on the track is especially raw.
Angelique is dark and bitter. The guitars in the hook sound abrasive, like knives scarring the listener's heart. And the pulsing guitar and bass in the verses give us a brief moment of relief.Popular Myth
's verses feature our favorite vocal melody on the record. It instantly draws you in, and in the chorus the arrangement expands, providing spotlight for anthemic harmonies and stadium-sized melodies.
Album closer is aptly titled Bye Bye.
It indeed feels like a song for a movie's end credits. The song turned out bitter and hopeful at the same time, and the production is light yet muscular, which gives us Future Islands' vibes. The trumpet solo is humble yet optimistic and feels like a perfect ending to both the song and the album, providing a beautiful aftertaste of love, confidence and promise of a better life.