Misfit, the latest EP by Jason Myles Goss, was released this past December (2023). The NYC-based songwriter has spent the better part of 15 years touring and releasing music independently. His last album, This Town Is Only Going To Break Your Heart, was released in 2015, three months before his first son was born. Fittingly, This Town is a record about the towns that shape who we are, and about kids growing up to have kids of their own. In 2018, Goss and his wife welcomed a daughter, and, aside from some occasional murmurings, the music and the shows all but stopped. And then, Covid.
"I really grew up these past three years. I had to make my kids feel safe and loved, and I realized I didn't know anything about the world, and I knew very little about myself. I went back to the drawing board with everything. My priorities changed, and I changed a lot."
The songs slowly started to find their way back. And, thankfully, a lot of the old bullshit did not. Maybe this was the result of being a little older and wiser, or maybe it was simply having far less time to fret and overthink things at every turn.
"My ambition was there—I wanted the songs to be good, but the worrying about things that didn't matter, the self-doubt, the second-guessing, those things were not there. Working on Misfit was a letting go of all of that. The way I was doing things before—I could now see all of my mistakes. Putting things away gave me a chance to find my love for writing songs again. It was an opportunity to start over, and to kill all my darlings."
It has been eight years since Goss has released new music, and while Misfit is not a full LP, it's a confident and decisive re-entry, drawing upon an eclectic assortment of sounds and influences. One pervasive lyrical theme is that of getting older and the grand illusion of adulthood. Goss alludes to "growing older" as the ultimate sleight-of-hand trick, an illusion that we both perform and fool ourselves with, continually and simultaneously.
"Magic," more broadly, is a recurring subject, which Goss repeatedly frames as the cardinal art of becoming and disappearing as we all try to navigate the vicissitudes of aging. While the world is a miraculous and magical place viewed through the eyes of a child, growing up comes with the realization that this magic is often painstakingly achieved through a mastery of the quotidian and unremarkable—a misdirection here, a charming diversion there, the hiding of something in plain sight, and, finally, the big reveal. It is the tragic transition from "not knowing" to the "knowing too much" with very little time in between.
In the title track, Goss sings, "well, this city takes the tragic and tries to sell it as magic, as if they're one in the same," and later, ". . . they say that getting older is an act of disappearing, and I'm slipping into the dark." Magic is also mulled about in Who I Am Anymore, where Goss sings, " . . .there is always time for some magic, there is always a place to hide your hideous crimes."
While, there's a lot of swinging-for-the-fences in these songs, there's a playfulness and confidence throughout. It feels like there's more trusting of the gut and of the process, and maybe a better understanding that you can't please everyone, and nor should you try.
The lead off track,Younger Man, erupts with howling, reverb-rattling electric guitar, congas, and a rhythm section reminiscent of 1970's Bill Withers, with a Hammond organ emboldening the confessional element of the lyrics. There is some darkness here, with Goss confessing to be a "bad love . . . who is all mind and no heart," and where "sometimes the ticking is the bomb," likely a nod to famed Boston writer, Nick Flynn, and his second memoir.
Belleville sounds like a sequel to Joplin, the opening track from This Town (2015), a cerebral, American gothic tale with a touch of electronic influence à la Cliff Martinez-produced Drive (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack, 2011). Beginning in what appears to be an ill-fated, violent robbery of an Interstate rest stop, Goss presents harrowing flashes of detail of the past and the present, "bad dreams in Illinois / of being beaten as a boy/ down in St. Clair County they use a rag to cover up the noise."
The EP ends with Somebody, an unabashed Jeff Lynne-inspired rocker that sounds like something your dad would bump in his headphones when mowing the lawn. With the waggish breeziness of the Traveling Wilburys, coupled with production reminiscent of George Harrison's Cloud Nine, Goss sings about listening to The Smashing Pumpkins' "Melancholy and the Infinite Sadness up loud," reliving memories of being a shy teenage kid, clumsily strumming songs to himself in his bedroom.
25 years later, father of two, he is still strumming songs to himself in his bedroom. Maybe not much has changed, or maybe everything has. Or, as he would say, maybe it's all one great big parlor trick.
— Press release by Mary Anne Bell (2023)
One-Armed Chappy Records
Produced by Jason Myles Goss & Joel Arnow
Engineered & Mixed by Joel Arnow at JA Sound
Additional Engineering by Justin Kessler at Mercy College
Mastered by Dan Millice Mastering
Austin Nevins: Electric and Acoustic Guitars, Lap Steel, Glockenspiel, Pump Organ, Chimes on "Who I Am Anymore" and "Belleville"
JP Ruggieri: Electric and Acoustic Guitars, Baritone Guitar, Pedal Steel on "Younger Man," "Somebody," and "Misfit."
Michael Bellar: Synths & Sound Design, Organ, Wurlitzer, Moog, Upright Piano, Magic Balls
Craig Akin: Electric Bass
Joel Arnow: Drums, Percussion, Acoustic Guitar
Dietrich Strause: Backing Vocal, Trumpet, Flugelhorn, Horn Arrangement on "Please Come Home"
Bill Finizio: Backing Vocals on "Who I Am Anymore," "Misfit," and "Somebody"
Kevin Winard: Congas on "Younger Man"
Jason Myles Goss: Acoustic Guitars, Vocals
** All songs by Jason Myles Goss © ℗, Jeswaldo Sounds