L.A.’s Got Me Down

Justus Proffit

Bar/None, 2019


REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray


The debut album from under-the-radar indie singer/songwriter Justus Proffit is a brief, angsty, lo-fi power-pop effort that should put him on the map outside of his hometown.

A 29-minute affair with only nine proper songs, the album details a difficult period in the singer’s life and consequently flirts with self-pity territory, but Proffit’s cool delivery and the brevity of the songs instead makes it relatable. Those moments in life when you’ve felt alone or had a moment of self-pity due to a health circumstance or loss of a friend or a realization that your friends invited someone else and not you? Proffit has nailed that feeling but has the good sense not to dwell too much in it. Life goes on, right?

“Solidified” is a good example of this, marrying a rather upbeat guitar track to lyrics of a verbally abusive man in one’s life: “Wait until he’s home / Yelling down your throat … “Dealing out the day / With bitter things to say / You once knew this man / But the dream is gone.” It could be a father, or a husband (from the wife’s point of view), but the pain is real. When Proffit sings “Take me back to my childhood” at the end, it’s honest but not maudlin. Not easy to pull off.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Less successful are “You” and “Laughing On The Inside,” which fit the overall fabric but don’t really stand out, and on balance there aren’t a ton of terribly memorable moments that last. “Closed View” is a mystery, too, the one moment that actually seems produced and electric, and the rare moment where it’s difficult to discern what the song is about: “Closed view inside a room / When it feels you want to die / Go outside if it’ll change your mind” is pretty explicit about needing to move forward, but “I’ll kill your anything / Your everything that’s true / Narcissist stared in the water till he drowned” is a bit more of a mystery. Maybe that’s the point?

There’s a hint of ‘90s lo-fi pop that runs through the tracks here; Proffit is often compared to Elliot Smith, and elements of a more melodic Pavement crop up too on some of the cuts. The sunny haze of “Painted In The Sound” and the more melancholic brood of “Shadow Of The Cross” find Proffit discovering the twin poles of his sound. Both are great tracks, as is “Big Room Melt Decay,” where Proffit appears to explicitly address the deaths of his friends while contemplating his own mortality against a backdrop of chiming guitars and arresting chord changes.

Proffitt plays all of the instruments here and wrote all the songs, and one feels that had this been released in the mid-‘90s it would have been a beloved underground hit. But regardless of era, there’s always people who will want to hear honest, unpretentious songs about universal moments, melancholy as those moments may be. A very good, uncompromising debut that sets the stage for something even better next time out.

Rating: B

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