You’ve probably heard it before, but in case you haven’t: the album is a dead art form. Streaming and downloading killed it, along with short attention spans. Listeners now want control over what they hear and when, preferring personal curation and playlists to full-length statements. Long live the single – if reports are to be believed, the concept of the album-as-journey is a relic of the past.
While consumption habits have undoubtedly shifted, many artists still treat the full-length with reverence. The idea of crafting a capital-A album – that is, a coherent, dynamic collection of songs that tells a story – is still alive and well (and, in some cases, sometimes even a preferred mode of expression). With Good Luck, Kid, the sophomore release from Portland folk-pop sister trio Joseph, the band attempts to evolve and move forward by making a statement for the masses.
Good Luck, Kid is, according to its press release, “a road movie in album form.” The description implies twists and turns, shifts in mood and attitude, a certain cinematic, wide-open grandeur, and recognition of transformation by the end. Those elements are certainly here. The album blows up the template of debut album I’m Alone, No You’re Not – slightly dreamy, totally unabrasive, radio-friendly folk-pop, highlighted by the tight harmonies and obvious chemistry of Allison, Meegan, and Natalie Closner – and doubles down on pop and pomp, aiming for the back seats of a club, festival, or maybe (eventually) an arena near you.
This is an unabashed play for a larger audience, produced by Christian Langdon (Meg Myers, Charlotte OC). Each of the 14 tracks sounds shiny, bright, and BIG. Songs explore different sounds and colors: there’s neon-infused, windows-down rockers (“Good Luck, Kid”); emotional, semi-downtempo torch songs (“Revolving Door,” “Enough In Your Eyes,” “Shivers”); packed-room anthems (lead single “Fighter”); and combinations of all of the above (“Green Eyes”). All sport a radio-friendly glimmer and insistent hookiness, with slight variations of boomy, unrelenting drums, bold melodies, and soaring vocals. It seems everything about the arrangements is intended to empower and lift up, which was evidently by design: “The through-line of the album is this idea of moving into the driver’s seat of your own life – recognizing that you’re an adult now, and everything’s up to you,” says Natalie Closner.
But for all its bold messaging and sympathetic production, Good Luck, Kid begins to feel bogged down by its delivery. The uniform sheen and barrage of hooks at first has a comforting sense of familiarity; this slowly wears down as the album progresses, leaving a sense of anonymity. The messages that comprise the journey begin to blur together, devoid of rough edges. Instead, they are blunted by a numbing (though uplifting) sameness.
Clearly, a lot of care went into Good Luck, Kid. The songs are always professionally catchy, the playing excellent, the singing immaculate. But instead of inducing emotion, Good Luck, Kid tells the listener how to feel – this is a Sad Song; this is a Togetherness Song, this is a Killer Hook – then beats them over the head with those feelings. After multiple listens, not much is clear beyond Big Ideas are being explored and Big Statements are being made. The new, heavier pop emphasis looks good on Joseph and their ambition deserves praise – maybe next time, the ideas will be painted in finer strokes.
Joseph will be at the Fonda Theatre on Saturday, October 19 — don’t miss them and get your tickets now! We saw them play a special show at Gold Diggers and it was fantastic hearing these new songs live.
Words by Andrew Ledford