Brooke Josephson Releases New EP
Vibrant melodies, driven by piano keys and gilded guitar strings, are almost everywhere we look in the new EP Showin’ Up, and as much as I want to credit Brooke Josephson’s vocal as the centerpiece of this record, the truth is much more complicated than that. In her first album, Josephson was rather hesitant to embrace big arrangements and a multilayered sound, drawing the spotlight more with her melodic sensibilities than her technical skill.
The opposite is true of Showin’ Up; in songs like “The Lesson” and the extended version of “Love Me Like a Man,” she’s experimenting with everything from aesthetics to complicated rhythms built atop her verses rather than beside them. She’s careful to avoid an over the top progressiveness that has sunk some of her closest contemporaries in recent years, with the surreal title track and “Hangin’ up My Cape” being the only truly cerebral content on this disc, but I get the idea she doesn’t want to be stuck in a box with this release. There’s a lot of Americana here, and although it isn’t a roots record, it could be said that this singer/songwriter seems intent on connecting with the roots of pop as much as she is a new identity for her music.
I think “Don’t Say” is one of the most challenging performances Josephson has taken on as a vocalist, and the way she presses herself to create a more intimate harmony than the setting would typically allow for is stunning by itself. She doesn’t have a lot of hesitation in any of these tracks, and the music video for “Rainbow” highlights her boldness on an additional level. There’s a case to be made that she’s outgrowing the pop genre, and I don’t think you can listen to a song like the title track without hearing the country element she’s starting to grow closer to. I hear plenty of the retro indie rock singer/songwriter influence in “Rainbow” and even “Love Me Like a Man,” but it’s coupled with a slice of pastoral warmth that tethers her sound more to Americana than it does anything in the pure pop/rock realm.
The bottom line here is pretty simple – not only is Showin’ Up a more mature effort than Brooke Josephson’s first album, but it’s also one that seems to have come from a more motivated place than I was initially anticipating. There’s a driving feel to every one of these compositions, from the balladry to the revving rock numbers, and when matched up with Josephson’s poetic abilities, the music sounds immersive as well as reflective. It’s clear to me that she wanted to make a personal record, but this isn’t so guarded that we aren’t able to relate to her perspective in the lyrics. Being a credible pop musician means being capable of striking a chord with people with something bigger than a hook, and in Showin’ Up, this singer/songwriter does as much while proclaiming a catharsis that is very exciting to hear from anyone in the American underground at the moment.