John Paul – Belmont Boulevard (CD)

John Paul has had his fair share of accolades over the years. Whether it was a nine-week reign at the top of the Portland Phoenix local-artist sales charts in his old band, Stillview or another of his old acts (The Posters) getting the Got Milk-campaign’s stamp of approval in 2004, Paul has captured the attention of anyone that has had the chance to listen in. “Belmont Boulevard” marks the second solo album that Paul has released – a sophomore effort that follows up on 2006’s “Winter Trek” – and shows an evolution of the styles and emotional content first approached on “Trek”.

“Belmont Boulevard” begins with “21”, a track that bounces back and forth between the tortured vocals of a Conor Oberst and the bouncy, happy vocals of a Bryce Avary (The Rocket Summer). The grit that is present at the edges of “21” is a subtle nod to acts like 1987-era Goo Goo Dolls, Husker Du, and The Replacements. Rather than resting on his laurels, Paul changes things up considerably for the next track on “Belmont Boulevard”, “Set Me Up”. “Set Me Up” stands at the intersection of country music, Bryan Adams, and the Counting Crows. Each track on “Belmont Boulevard” is pregnant with literally tens of influences, emotions, and meanings, meaning that tracks like “Chameleon” or “Card” are the equivalent to a musical “Ulysses” or “Gravity’s Rainbow”.

However, instead of bogging the disc down with heavy arrangements and dense lyrical arrangements, John Paul has made each song on “Belmont Boulevard” accessible in a variety of ways. For example, the aforementioned “Chameleon” is a track that is a true toe-tapper, continuing the Replacements-like style of “21”, but the dense guitars and interplay that each instrument has with said guitar constitutes a puzzle that could conceivably require listeners fifteen or twenty plays to fully understand the magnitude of Paul’s arrangements here. Later tracks do not slip in quality: “Come Down Girl” is one of the best tracks on this disc. The idiosyncratic style of Paul’s vocals here are hopeful at the same time as sad, smooth as silk while still containing a bit of John Rzeznik-like grit. The disc itself ends with “Way Too Soon”, a mourning type of track that has a double meaning. While the track is ostensibly talking about love, Paul has given the track the voice of the listener – for anyone that has stuck with the disc up to this point, the end has truly came “Way Too Soon”.

Top Tracks: Sleepless, Card

Rating: 8.8/10

John Paul – Belmont Boulevard / 2008 Self / 12 Tracks / /

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Author: James McQuiston

Ph.D. in Political Science, Kent State University. I have been the editor at NeuFutur / since I was 15. Looking for new staff members all the time; email me if you are interested. Thanks!

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