Out of Little Rock, Arkansas, the Alt-Pop twosome ‘joan’ has been steadily releasing some of the most earnest and nourishing pop sounds this side of the 2000s. Though Southerners in their origin, their music incorporates some of the gloomy-yet-vulnerable vibes from midwestern sounds (emo, alt-rock, bedroom pop, etc.) but with a uniquely vibrant Identity that is just their own.
As the story goes, both Alan and Steven attended the small college of Ouachita Baptist University in rural Arkansas—albeit at different times. Their bands often shared bills before they eventually got together “to write and see what happens.” What happened was they wrote “take me on,” and it became their very first single. It opened up the creative floodgates and adorned their 2018 EP, porta.
For their latest outing, ‘superglue’ (Photo Finish Records), the Band has decided to take inspiration from one of the most life-changing events of their lives: The birth of their children, describing the album as “an existential journey influenced by the duo’s recent transition into fatherhood.”
Of course “superglue” does deal with more than just fatherhood, and in many ways, it feels like it follows a journey from childhood to that one precious moment of total transformation.
We both had babies in the past year. We’ve grown more than we have in a long time. It’s so cool watching your baby crawl for the first time and see the world. It organically informed the writing. The whole body of work is so personal—like we’re giving a piece of ourselves to listeners. It’s by far the most special thing we’ve done.”
‘superglue’ definitely has its broad share of experiences, many of which I’m sure most of us can relate to, a promise that joan seem to have made to their listeners -new and old alike- on their quest to make music that makes your hairs stand on end from the sheer emotional power of their beautiful artform.
Today we have a close -but brief- look at each track, just for you:
‘life death & everything in between’ starts off with static-ladden baby noises that I think set a very nice warm tone for a lot of what’s going to happen in this here album before segwaying into a sweet, and equally child-like LoFi piano melody that feels like wistfully staring at a star-studded night sky.
‘simple’ is a song about -what else- simpler times, or at least about things that seem simple at first glance, and the song kind of plays that up musically with its warm, uplifting melody and groovy drum machine.
‘loner’ starts off all muffled and distorted before blooming into an angsty 2000s pop-punk/alt-rock ballad (but with way better vocals) and a much more tidy production.
‘nervous’ flows naturally out of ‘loner’, as it extols the virtues of our very first crush. The overwhelming and confusing surge of emotions and sensations that come from a romantic awakening
‘backseat driving’ is another great song more overtly about reminiscing, but also about wondering and fantasizing about “what could have been” and more. This song I think is one of the great highlights of the track in terms of how well-constructed and unique the sound of it is. The Mid-western influences of the band are quite noticeable here in no small part thanks to the flavorful guitar work put into this song.
‘coffee shop’ This track is a halfway point Interlude, but it bears mentioning that it ‘rhymes’ stylistically with everything so far, particularly with the opening of the first track with its use of static.
‘monsters’ Truly Picks up where we left off as far as style goes. This Inspiring track soars with folksy guitar balladry and very subtle ethereal violins to punch up this magical willow-tree-whisper of an anthem. This song is among the most beautiful in the entire album and it’s not just in the instruments and the singing, but in the lyrics, which I won’t go into any detail about, and encourage you to explore instead.
‘hi’ is -strangely- yet another short interlude track with a nocturnal feel to it, once again nothing much to say other than noting how the album once again insinuates analog technology to harken back to a previous era just before the digital/information explosion.
‘feeling like dancing’ Feels just like a dream come alive. At first, the youthful and upbeat vocals feel delightfully juxtaposed with the twangy goth-like guitar, however when the hook/chorus comes on the track explodes full force into a cacophony of pop reverberation that will truly make you feel like dancing like never before.
‘falling in love’ is any way you look at it, a sincere and pretty straightforward love song and completely unabashed by it. In a time where songs dealing with heartbreak and no-strings-attached relationships abound, it is always refreshing to hear something that’s unburdened with cynicism and relying instead on being genuine and positive
‘superglue’ Lastly, the titular track to end the album eagerly blooms into a magnificent and uplifting piece right away, by far the most expansive song and the one that I think embodies the joan Style the best.
While ‘monsters’ was amazing and beautiful, ‘superglue’ really takes the cake, It’s an amazing track that was written directly for the daughters of both Alan Benjamin Thomas and Steven Rutherford and it is the song that most clearly lays out the themes of fatherhood and unconditional love that the duo wanted to tap into and explore with this album.
After all of these things in the album have been said and done, the core of joan’s message really seems to be this> Love isn’t just the strongest bond there is, but also the only thing that can repair and restore someone when life’s been chipping away at them; and fatherly love is something you should always be able to turn to when you’re in need.
“We love any music that is accessible to everybody,” adds Alan. “It doesn’t matter if you grew up on country, rock, rap, pop, or polka, a great melody will make you feeling something. So, that’s our aim every time. We consciously try not to pigeonhole ourselves. I’m happy we can’t pinpoint a genre. It will always sound like joan, but it might not sound exactly like the last song—I love that so much about our process.”
joan U.S. tour dates
May 13 – The Masquerade (Hell Stage): Atlanta, GA May 14 – The Basement East: Nashville, TN
May 16 – Music Hall of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, NY
May 17: The Lounge @ World Cafe: Philadelphia, PA
May 19 – The Black Cat: Washington DC
May 20 – The Sinclair: Boston, MA
May 23 – The Velvet Underground, Toronto, ON
May 25 – Subterranean: Chicago, IL
May 31 – Parish: Austin, TX
June 1 – Club Dada: Dallas, TX
June 3 – Valley Bar: Phoenix, AZ
June 4 – Voodoo Room @ HOB: San Diego, CA
June 6 – Constellation Room: Santa Ana, CA
June 7 – Teragram Ballroom: Los Angeles, CA
June 8 – Popscene @ Rickshaw Shop: San Francisco, CA
June 10 – Polaris Hall: Portland, OR
June 11 – Barboza: Seattle, WA
June 13 – Soundwell: Salt Lake City, UT
June 14 – Larimer Lounge: Denver, CO
June 15 – Resonant Head, Oklahoma City, OK
June 16 – Little Rock Music Hall: Little Rock, AR
Story by: Samuel Aponte Photos: Jacob Ruth