Pastoral guitar strings are ready and willing to wash a bit of optimism over anything within earshot as we listen to the opening bars of “Good Kind of Tired,” the first song in Josephson’s new EP Live & Let Live. Slowly but surely, an electric melody creeps out from behind the strumming and imparts a thunderous emotional power chord that will reappear later on in the song in a much more monstrous form. We’re on a wild ride under the direction of Brooke Josephson in songs like this one and its tracklist neighbor “No for an Answer,” and in her care, we can rest assured in knowing that a true student of the classic pop model has everything under control. The fretwork is surreal, the skins are crunchy and full of rich vitality, and in the center of it all, Josephson’s voice is the lighthouse amid a grand storm.
“Burning Journals” keeps the same conceptual swing of “No for an Answer” going at full steam but adds in a dose of pop winteriness that isn’t available to us in the first two tracks here. There’s a rebelliousness in Josephson’s style of attack that alludes heavily to her folk-rock roots, but if you ask me, she’s far more a pop songwriter at this point than she’s ever been anything else. This is undisputedly a rock record filled with concept songs, electric bruisers, and acoustic ballads alike, but if pressed to give it an aesthetical definition, I don’t think you can get around Live & Let Live’s ultra-accessible hooks.
There’s no getting around the rusticity here, and after listening to “Burning Journals,” I think Brooke Josephson can probably appreciate the greater depth of Americana than her peers can. Much like her heroes, Josephson straddles the rhythm of the percussion in this track whilst using her words to frame the melody of the guitar parts (rather than the other way around). This not only maximizes the harmony’s presence in the master mix but makes it impossible for the audience to step away from the music feeling even slightly unaffected by the dual-assault they’ve just experienced. “All We Never Had” isn’t quite as jarring by comparison, but let’s face it – most records have but one gilded crown jewel and this EP has a whole set of memorable gems.
Live & Let Live comes to a conclusion with the memorable “Eye in the Sky,” which teases a more biting lyrical venom than any of the other songs on the record do (without falling apart in pessimism, I might add). I wasn’t sure what to expect when sitting down with this extended play for the first time just recently, but once I got into the grooves Josephson divvies out with ease in this tracklist, I knew I had fallen upon something amazing this winter. Josephson doesn’t try to fit into any sort of stylistic box in Live & Let Live; instead, its creator and master go out of her way to produce a unique space in the pop lexicon for her music to exist. I’m ready for her next effort, and I doubt I’m the only one.