Amateur Hour doesn’t let me down, it is 4 tracks that are beautifully layered, hooky, and intelligent. Each time I listened to this EP, I kept scribbling ideas and redirecting the content of the review, because I just can’t address it all. As a modern troubadour, Joel’s songs tell a story, they paint a picture, they relate to real life in a seemingly casual and identifiable way. His characters have names, they have a narrative, they go to real Philly locations, they have personal histories, they struggle to make ends meet, they contemplate mortality.
I try never to place intention on an artists since some of the best creations and works have largely been lead by intuition and the subconscious. Every track on Amateur Hour fit together as they were created as one work, as one collection, from an artist driven by a specific inspiration.
Out of all my scribblings, I kept coming back to the use of repetition. Repetition that is used in a way that is so simple it’s daring, so obvious that it shouldn’t work, but man, it fucking works perfectly. It creates voice, vernacular, and personality so simply.
We Don’t Care repeats whole phrases again and again and again to create an upbeat conversation about death , and Arms offers a sense of connection, with a tongue in cheek pun, “a reason people tend to die at night, they put out the light and then they put out the light”. But the the best examples of this use of repetition is in Jessica and Dan and a Cat Named Bolt Thrower, “No one knows they've peaked until they've peaked”, “they don't want to go out, they probably shouldn't go out, but they might” and “every week is like two or three weeks”. Joel creates another layer to these characters by using this simple technique.
Then again, sometimes it feels that the lyrics are more about the sound of the words more than their meaning, ala dadaism. We haven’t reach Gertrude Stein level of sonic nonsense, yet the sound is sometimes just as, if not more important, than meaning or grammar. Hang Out or Die Trying is a wonderful example of this, the rhymes are heavy and beautiful and give the song it’s unique cadence and voice.
You will be tapping your foot, you will be humming along, you will push repeat.