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Johnathan Rice - Good Graces (Review)

Johnathan Rice, Good Graces

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

JOHNATHAN Rice describes his latest album Good Graces as offering “healing music”.

Or, in his own words: “Some people really close to me had been going through an exceptionally rough time, therefore I was going through a rough time. People that I love very much were struggling with extreme darkness. Thoughts of suicide and deep hopelessness. Fundamental questions like: ‘Do I want to be here or not?’ That absolutely informed the writing of this record.”

Rather than wallowing in that depression, however, Rice sought to heal through music and strove to find the “frequencies, the melodies and the words that would help”.

And this is evident from the jangly, highly melodic opening track Acapulco Gold, which has a shimmering, sun-kissed quality and references to turtles swimming to beaches – all good, happy, calming thoughts. The lyrics are optimistic too (“and as luck would have it, we survived” etc). The result is a song that transmits a similar positivity.

And there are several points throughout the album that do the same.

My Heart Belongs To You is a great love song that tip-toes into Beatles-esque/Lennon quality, complete with great guitar and piano combinations; while Nowhere At The Speed of Light rattles along with an invigorating slice of sun-specked slacker apathy. It may lament “I’m going nowhere at the speed of light” but for all of its ‘despondency’, it delivers a shot of genuine musical energy.

Lou Rider cleverly drops in a Lou Reed-inspired central vocal and is augmented by a cute vocal contribution from Rilo Kiley’s Jenny Lewis and her regular collaborators The Watson Twins, It’s steeped in retro qualities but drops a doozy of a chorus (“I don’t care what they say, I’m going to love you”).

Hence, while there are a couple of more ordinary moments, this album puts you in a generally good mood and uplifts in the way it’s supposed to, right down to the likes of Surfer’s Lament (with its darker Beach Boys inspired harmonising) and classic final track That Summer Feeling drops in a drowsy Hawaiian sway that’s utterly intoxicating and somehow really soothing.

Way to go Mr Rice.

Download picks: Acapulco Gold, Nowhere At The Speed of Light, Lou Rider, Surfer’s Lament, That Summer Feeling

Track listing:

  1. Acapulco Gold
  2. My Heart Belongs To You
  3. Nowhere At The Speed Of Light
  4. Lou Rider
  5. Empty Head
  6. Good Graces
  7. Surfer’s Lament
  8. Soldiers
  9. That Summer Feeling