By Mike O’Cull, independent music journalist. www.mikeocull.com
John Lebanon sounds like a person but it’s really a band built around Lebanese guitarist and songwriter Roy S and fleshed out by a number of collaborators that includes Matt, Alex, Kat, Olivia, Ella, Juliette, Laeticia, Noemie, Wheels, and Soup Wizard. The crew has released a steady stream of singles and EPs that showcase a style that blends progressive folk and experimental pop/rock into quirky, endearing songs that are impossible to forget.
The project began as a creative antidote to Roy’s daytime life as a medical doctor and resident at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island. He’d been writing music since his teen years in Beirut. Disco Bio is an EP released by John Lebanon in 2018 of collected works written before and during Roy’s residency training and inspired by the loss of a close friend named Jade to suicide. He and the rest of JL made the record with a Minimoog, electric bass, and many organic percussion tools like ping pong balls, coins, bicycle bells, and more.
The title track, “Disco Boi,” gets things off to a cool, moody start and tells a story of love set in Brooklyn, New York. It features male and female lead vocals and a hypnotic bass line that will pull you in and keep you listening. “Get A Cab” is funky indie Euro Pop with artistic overtones and an atmospheric sensibility. As a unit, John Lebanon makes a subtle, smooth noise and never takes anything on Disco Boi over the top, preferring to keep its tracks on a deliberate simmer. The slightly reined-in approach works for these songs and will appeal to those seeking substance over bombast.
“Petit Jean” is a vibe-filled electronic instrumental cut that feels like movie music. “Propane Co” is directly about Jade and his ongoing dismay over the cost of gas. It continues the cinematic, ethereal sound the group has established and features some tasty wah-drenched guitar work and well-executed synth parts. All the tunes here are hooky and memorable and demonstrate a high level of songcraft. Fans of unusual indie pop will find much to like on Disco Boi and need to give John Lebanon an immediate spin.
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