Tobias Jesso Jr., a song-writing prodigy of pared-down poignancy, photographed by Hedi Slimane
With these shots of Tobias Jesso Jr., Hedi Slimane continues his Saint Laurent Music Project, a unique series of portraits that features both established icons and new talent. Numéro examines the sublime first album of this rising star.
Goon, the first album by Canadian singer-songwriter Tobias Jesso Jr., has the power to revive forgotten worlds.
Among his references is the romantically inclined pop of the 1960s and 70s, in particular the masters that were Randy Newman and Charlie Wilson (he often cites the latter’s cult song Without You).
Even if Jesso Jr. denies it, Goon has all the appearances of a breakup album - he frequently addresses his ex-girlfriend - and expresses, with great delicacy, the agonies of adolescence and its impossible love, deep despair and absolute need. He may be nearly 30 but, when we met him during a brief Parisian stopover, Jesso Jr. seemed as much gauche teenager as classic Romantic poet.
Indeed, when pressed for details, it seems that he is the goon of the album’s title, recounting as he does the years lost in L.A. pursuing “glory and success” without really believing it would happen, and his “sad and lonely” return to his native Vancouver… Thank goodness this first album owes more to the California sunshine.
Since then, the eternal adolescent has won the enthusiasm of his idol Adele (who tweeted one of his songs) and of some of the biggest names on the American indie scene: Chet “JR” White from Girls, Patrick Carney from The Black Keys and Ariel Rechtshaid, among others, queued up to produce his album. “Often I just write my songs at the piano,” he explains. “The feverish quality of my compositions has more to do with the fact that I can’t play the piano very well than with a search for a particular sound. After that, the lyrics come very quickly. And I leave the producers to take care of the rest,” he concludes, a dilettante without qualms.
Goon, by Tobias Jesso Jr. (True Panther Sounds), out now.
Photos by Hedi Slimane for Saint Laurent Music Project.
By Thibaut Wychowanok