javahead – ‘pinball is legal’

Within a myriad of hooky alt-rock, power-pop, and psych-friendly aesthetical pursuits, the album pinball is legal chronicles an eventful year from javahead. The dissolution of a long-term relationship, a long drive to California, a coffee addiction, and a range of unique interests are among the tribulations captured and transformed into song, courtesy of project leader and multi-instrumentalist Paul Dunne.

Crunchy guitars and nocturnal organs assemble alongside confident vocals on the opening “dunkin’ love letter,” contemplating certain times, places, and feelings; it’s an apt kick-off to an album inspired by personal tumult, emitting a frustration with “stagnation and stillness,” as the vocals let out, into a spacey psych-rock enduring. The balmier buzzing synths and twangy guitars on the subsequent “casinos & snorkeling” prove more caressing, set alongside lyrics depicting the trials of being an artist and intriguing late-night conversations.

The ghostly “if you have time to spare” stirs with a feeling of unrequited longing. “I breathe the morning that you woke,” they admit alongside trickling acoustics and a haunting synth backing, lamenting on the prevalence of second-guessing and regret. Deeper guitar grumbles pop sporadically, emitting a post-punk nostalgia mixed with a slowcore textural engrossment. “I’m reading the stars” also compels with ’80s touches of post-punk and alternative, though exuding a brisker ferocity in the steady vocal presence and wailing guitar impact upon the “touching the…” lyrical sequence.

The album consumes in a mixture of sturdy acoustical backing and electric adornments alike, intertwining equally on a success like “thursday at 9:18 pm.” The hypnotic assortment traverses into a comforting “glad to be here again,” concluding vocal sequence, with the “share leftovers and still be in bed by 10,” invoking a sense of family and comfort. These themes continue with consistency. The ensuing “practice makes decent” muses “I’ve been wondering if I could be a good father,” alongside playful keys — venturing into one of the album’s most involved productions, with rousing guitar work and pulsing keys set alongside dynamic vocals that bridge power-pop and psych-forward fervency.

A strong final one-two punch cements the release’s evident strengths. “do i know” invigorates upon its sky-watching introspection and range of guitars, from sludgy slowed-down intrigue to peppy bursts of charisma, with shades of Pavement and The Pixies at points. The album’s title track enamors as the closing track, fusing vibrant acoustics and playful synths — resembling a video-game nostalgia — as vocals reminisce on a memorable break from it all, highlighted by pinball. pinball is legal is a thorough success from javahead, capturing a wide range of emotions and personal turbulence within a fun, melodic production.

Mike Mineo

I'm the founder/editor of Obscure Sound, which was formed in 2006. Previously, I wrote for PopMatters and Stylus Magazine.

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