Goddamn Electric Bill – Topics For Gossip

Goddamn Electric Bill
Topics For Gossip

More often then not anything labeled electronic gets the reputation of being cold and impersonal. While that’s largely true, despite all their talk of computer worlds and man-machines I find Kraftwerk to be the opposite; warm, inviting, and oddly comforting. Much like the music of those 4 power stations, Jason Torbert’s project Goddamn Electric Bill extends this bucking of the trend by creating a sublime album filled with human warmth.

Topics For Gossip does what any respectable second album should do which is expand on the ideas of the first without exact repetition or to stray too far off course. Many moments sound oddly familiar, like second cousins of the first album, Swallowed By The Machines. This, is a good thing as that album was rooted in feeling despite the keys, synths, drum machines, and other plug in-able instruments. Comparing the two it now seems that Machines was quite simple in it’s construction. I’m sure Torbert would balk at that idea, and rightfully so, but Gossip is a far more sophisticated and dare I say, mature, album.

Two things on Topics For Gossip will receive the most notice. The first being more instrumentation in the form of (mostly) acoustic guitars. The second being vocals. As in Torbert’s and not samples. Remember how RJD2 did that about face and decided to make an indie rock/pop record? Gossip is like that only with far superior results. Torbert uses his voice and guitar skills to enhance each song and not to reinvent the wheel. From the album opener “The Morning Commute” the new instrument shows its face but not before the scene is set with pulsing beats and a melody that shimmers like a sunrise. Once the guitar makes its entrance it isn’t showy or draws attention to itself. As the album progresses more songs revolve around acoustic guitar melodies much like early Dave Pajo/Aerial M did creating an expansion of sound and movement.

“Our History, Part 2,” does in fact pick up where the first part (on the debut) left off but not for long. Only for a minute or so do we hear some nearly tribal drumming before turning into another song altogether, this time with Torbert softly singing. Lyrically it isn’t the most poetic verse ever written but that’s because he’s more interested with sound and scene then breaking new ground. Later Torbert’s vocals shine on “Ten Thousand Years,” with a building instrumental verse that explodes into a bright moving chorus.

GDEB somehow makes music for any scenic occasion. As fall sets in and leaves change this was my soundtrack for football season, elections, and wool sweaters. With Torbert based in sunny southern California, I can’t imagine he’s come across these things too often. But somehow this music is also perfectly suited for the sound of waves hitting the shore, the breeze coming in off of the ocean. It’s also adaptable for late night drives alone. It’s an album that will allow you time to think. Lest I give into hyperbole, it’s an album of the year. Torbert has created another stunning work full of real feeling and honesty, something rare in this particular field.