I sort of knew it would be good. He likes all the right things, the right bands – no matter of the genre or whether it’s perceived as cool or not. Plus, he’s one of those annoyingly entertaining writers that is able to inform, and cajole you towards a certain record, with humour of the self-deprecating kind. How do I know that? I read his blog, that’s why. I’ve tried (and failed) to get him to write for Backseat Mafia, but that’s not why I’m writing about his record.
Away from talking about albums by Lightning Bolt and the like for the entertainment of the masses, J Hubner is actually a serial musician of several projects past including Goodbye Wave and Sunnydaymassacre. His new work is titled Midwest Son (of which, as far as I can tell, he is) and from the opening track Some other Sun you transported into a world of part 70’s stoner-slacker, part 90’s indie. And do you know, it’s good. More than good. I don’t know why you’re suddenly surprised when you hear someone make music when you only vaguely know them , but it always seems to be the case. His songwriting over the course of the whole album is sharp, his storytelling within the songs always good, occasionally brilliant, and he has made a collection of songs that buzz away at your consciousness, immediately attractive, but satisfyingly complex when you delve into them in more detail.
For what appears to be little more than a one man project the musicality of Midwest Son is all the more impressive. Following on from the quasi-almost Monkees of the opener (LOVE that squelchy keyboard by the way), Hubner shows he isn’t a one trick pony with the singalong I am the Kaiser. Another left turn follows in with ‘The New Americans’ (hardly following the American dream, so it seems) and this psych version of Byrds come Sonic Youth come Bowie (almost) seems to be a thread that continues through.
The more acoustic ‘In the brine’ again follows the cross-pollination of the decades and the poetic inferences in the summery psych of Beard of Bees conjures up all sorts of images. One of the finest moments of the album comes with title track Midwest Son, a tale of growing up shows once again that Hubner has an innate sense of melody, the Beatles-alike moments immediately bring a smile to my face. Why, it could almost be a Teenage Fanclub record.
Lost at sea shows that these midwestern boys can do a version of country (well, folky country anyway) just as well as Nashville, while The Touch swirls Flaming Lips like through the room. Infinite latitudes takes a little from Radiohead and turns it into something completely special, it’s reverb exhilarating even on multiple listens. The way it goes provides another highlight (for me anyway) the sort of sparseness of the whole thing I found really endearing before the album closes with acoustic singer-songwriter-esque Seasick.
Midwest son is the culmination of two years work for J Hubner, saying ‘Midwest Son has been a labor of love. songs ranging from scrappy to symphonic, [it] covers all of the many musical loves that have inspired and moved j. hubner to write music. this is the second record released under j. hubner, following 2010s Life In Distortion.’
We didn’t cover this record to persuade J Hubner to write for us (although, you know, if he wants to….) or because he’s a fellow blogger, or because we like what he writes, or indeed as a favour. We covered this record because for all his drawn in influences, it’s still something different, and interesting and new. And most of all, its something that happens to be very good. Very good indeed.