Independent Clauses | n. —unusual words about underappreciated music

Josh Caress-Letting Go of a Dream

September 1, 2005

Band Name: Josh Caress
Album Name: Letting Go of a Dream
Best element: Strong command of layers and mood.
Genre: Indie songwriter
Website: www.myspace.com/joshcaress
Label name: –
Band e-mail: joshcaress@yahoo.com

Some genres are trendy—fads like nu-wave emo, pop-punk, and post-grunge that have all come into their own in the past ten years. As soon as the media binge on those genres stops, bands will stop forming in those genres. The only bands that will play post-grunge in twenty years will be hardcore believers in the sound of post-grunge, which is the way I think it should be.

But there are a few genres that are consistently bloated—and the genre of singer/songwriter is the easy choice for that crown. That’s why it’s so exciting to me when a singer/songwriter of true merit comes along- an artist bucking the trends, ignoring the naysayers, and putting full faith in what they’re doing. Josh Caress is one of those rare songwriters.

By no means is Josh Caress’ debut album Letting Go of a Dream perfect- there are moments when his low, Dylan-esque voice warbles so much that it feels wrong (“A Summer Night When We Were Young”), sections of lyrics that should’ve been left on the cutting room floor (The musically excellent “The Bus Shot Through the Night and I Believed”), as well as a little bit of musical narcissism (the excessive length of “A Summer Night…”), but on the whole, this album is a dramatic statement from a new artist.

Josh Caress’ emphasis isn’t on virtuoso guitar playing or perfect vocals or immaculate production. Caress’ emphasis is on the mood of the songs he writes. This album flows beautifully, and although there’s a song here or there that doesn’t match up to the quality of the rest, the flaw can be ignored when you see how it connects to the rest of the songs in the context of the album.

“Sally’s on My Side” is the song to hear if you want to know what Josh Caress is about. It starts off with a muffled, distant electronic beat until a simple electric guitar strum comes in. A world-weary, downtrodden voice comes in, accompanied by an acoustic guitar on top of all that already is. The chorus brings in another layer of guitar and a tambourine. And it’s still quite mellow. The next verse brings in a far-off drumbeat and a doubled vocal. The song is building and building, and the changes flow right. The song surges upward in a crescendo until the very end when Caress takes his vocals up an octave over pounding layers of music, in a beautifully cathartic cry of “Wish you never loved him, wish he never hurt you!” Then the song drops back to its beginnings, with a simple beautiful guitar strum and an electronic beat.

All of these songs funnel the themes of loss, regret, and hopeful optimism through motifs of stars, night, wind, travel, and many more. The sound is lush, full, and beautiful- a legato indie-pop orchestra. From the tenderly forlorn “Opening Theme” to the final dying chords of “Letting Go of a Dream”, this album is beautiful.

I was once told to listen to a copy of Confusion Ends.’ album Hello, I’m Noah while riding a city bus. I was told that you would never feel more alive then to watch life pass while listening to the music. I’m telling you this: You will never feel more alive then when you listen to Josh Caress while watching life go by. The beauty in the CD makes life seem so much more beautiful than it is. Or maybe it unlocks the beauty that life already has.

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Stephen Carradini and friends write reviews of bands that are trying to make the next step in their careers.

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