5 out of 5
Label: Super Asbestos
Produced by: Jeb Banner
Despite grabbing my attention with his lo-fi, frazzled adventures in discontent, over June Panic’s catalogue, it seems like he’s at his best when he’s most settled. Questions of faith have plagued him in various iterations, and earlier albums were fueled by that… but it could become exhaustive, stretched across 15+ tracks. Sometimes it was all too conceptual, with whatever thesis existed across the tracks dominated the vibe, preventing the music from really taking flight.
At the (as of now) end of his recording ventures, Hope You Fail Better provided a more laid back Panic, past the hump of Baby’s Breadth‘s contemplations on birth and on to the musings of a father raising a child. While that would seem to lend itself to plenty of freak-out scenarios, it instead gave June some grounding, and granted the album focus, which producer Daniel C. Smith helped to shape into some great songs.
Back in the approximate middle of things, the Silver Sound Sessions teamed up JP with producer Jeb Banner and a band and we got an EP of 8 tracks that were brighter and tighter than anything Panic had released to that point. Opener Travel Time is crunchy pop perfection, and it’s followed by a range of alt-folk rockers that bring the intensity of the artist’s early works to the more fleshed out arrangements with which he would begin working on Horror Vacui. However, unlike that album, we actually feel like we’re getting a full band here, not just thanks to the instrumentation – some strings, some horns – but because of the energy, and the organic vibe of the recording.
Reading the liner notes, June mentions that he’d written the tracks when he felt like he was past his various crises of faith – that’s that settled quality – and so we have an artist pursuing a “sound” instead of a feeling; a “silver sound,” which was apparently something Jeb understood. And although June initially mentions failing at achieving that quality, the eventual mix we got of these songs does sound unlike anything else in Panic’s catalogue, save, again, Hope You Fail Better – both having a kind of celebratory indulgence in the music, and letting thoughts pile on and around that sound. That’s not a formula I’d always recommend, as I’d often prefer more emotion in music, but June’s head seems like such a cluttered place, that it’s apparently for our bests as listeners when he’s got something centering him, allowing us to appreciate his songcraft all the more.