Goon, Tobias Jesso Jr.’s debut album, is a bit of a rarity. Largely piano-based albums can sound repetitive or come along with voices that just don’t seem to fit the aesthetic. Tobias, however, finds a wonderful balance between a great voice and piano playing that never feels overused.
His incorporation of other instruments also stands out more due to the strategic use of those instruments. It is a simple, but genuine, album that thrives with his sincere intentions.
Yes, the album is mostly about relationships, which could have been monotonous if executed improperly. But Jesso figures out how to diversify each song’s feeling and take on relationships, and the ideas within the songs are universal and easily relatable.
“Can’t Stop Thinking About You” speaks of a girl he, rather obviously, can’t stop thinking about. Her name is Mary Anne, and unless you personally can’t stop thinking about going to Mary Ann’s this weekend (in which case you should get help immediately), the song is extremely applicable—how often have you had someone on your mind constantly, for better or worse?
“How Could You Babe” is that feeling we get late at night when we start looking through our ex’s Facebook photos with his or her new significant other, and for some reason, we feel betrayed. Sure, we’ll tell all our friends that we could care less what our exes are up to these days, but we all struggle with it. What happened to the love we once had, and what does it mean for our ex to love someone new? “How could you baby?”
Once relationships end (whether it’s friendly or more than that), after the dust settles and all that remains is rubble on both sides, there are sometimes opportunities to rediscover some semblance of a relationship with that person. Tobias explores this idea in “Can We Be Friends,” along with some of the cautionary aspects that come along with it.
A very interesting idea appears in with “The Wait.” Tobias explains how those special friendships, the ones that everyone knows will probably end up being something more in the future, can be seen as a waiting period—just delaying the inevitable.
Some tracks actually tell a story together and build off each other sequentially, like the transition from tracks seven through nine, “For You” to “Crocodile Tears” and finally “Bad Words.” “For You” is that state of euphoria, that feeling that could make us do anything for that special someone.
Every time we see them, we are “smiling.” But, sometimes things go wrong, and they do so abruptly. This sudden change is why “For You” finishes midsentence, and on a lyric that says “If you’re going to grieve, well I’ll just keep—” and then slows down in pace instrumentally for the remainder of the song.
"Crocodile Tears" comes in angrily, with Tobias spitefully saying, “I wonder why I have nothing to do,” and we can imagine that he glares over at her in that moment. His fake crying and boohoo's sounds immature and abnormal, but the presentation is realistically passive aggressive and definitely a way that people act when a relationship goes awry.
To finish the trio, “Bad Words” retreats back to the softness he has shown before. It’s the track that admits he messed up, that during the time of the last track, maybe all those passive aggressive comments were, in fact, immature and misplaced.
“You got me angry so I called you names.” It sounds like the confession of a 10 year old, but it's funny just how juvenile adults are sometimes. He wants to fix it, and doesn’t want “bad words to be the last.”
The one song solely about him is “Hollywood”, and its something that college students understand all too well. The uncertainties of putting yourself into a new city (especially after college) and trying for success but knowing you might fail.
It’s the thought that we could all “die in Hollywood” whenever we try to make it big. The best advice people can give us is “to go and get a job,” as if it’s actually that easy. The horns that come in at the end and the transition to repetitive keyboard notes both reflect the anxiety building inside him and the intensity of his worries. Can’t wait to graduate!
Tobias closes his debut album with “Tell The Truth,” where he begs a woman to stop all of the nonsense and just say goodbye to what they once had. He wants her to just “tell [him] straight,” to simply “tell the truth.” Luckily for Tobias, his album functions on truth—true relationships with true interactions based off of true feelings. And, truthfully, that is why Goon succeeds.