Our pick of the week's new releases is the beautiful second album from Joel Johnston (aka Far Caspian)
Most people become musicians to escape the grind. It’s the romantic myth that drives so much of the lifestyle’s allure. So, it’s something of an anomaly for an artist to find himself back in the repetition of the daily commute and to then use the experience to inspire something as beautiful and expressive as The Last Remaining Light.
Immediately after finishing his debut album, Far Caspian’s Joel Johnston dove into album number two. Set up in the basement of his label’s city centre office building, his daily bus journey to recording sessions became a ritual; a window into worlds and lives that traditionally exist outside of most creative spheres. As outcomes go, it’s a far better use of a commute than a descent into doomscrolling.
Johnston sets these tales of imagined lives to a combination of hooky late 90s indie rock, haunting dream pop and the occasional burst of shoegaze. Real Estate and Beach Fossils come to mind at times, particularly on the hooky, cyclical title track, in the warm, laidback jangle of ‘Own’ and the Television-esque rhythms and guitar lines of ‘Pet Architect’. Other times, there are shades of Sparklehorse’s haunted music box folk, particularly on the intensely lovely ‘First Warning Shot’.
The sprightly ‘Arbitrary Task’ tackles the lonely drudgery of commuting head on, Johnston lamenting the toll it takes and repeating “I long to be / Somewhere I could sleep” like a desperate mantra. Opener ‘Commuter Repeating’ shifts from a gentle groove into an abrasive driving rhythm that feels like a kind of grinding momentum.
‘Own’ feels like the real centrepiece of the album, a lovely languid song about claustrophobic loneliness that uses touches of dissonance to elevate its subtle melodies into something glorious. Its instrumental outro is just one of several moments where The Last Remaining Light feels truly transcendent.
Johnston suggested immense promise on Ways To Get Out, Far Caspian’s 2022 full-length debut. The Last Remaining Light does more than deliver on that promise; it suggests that the possibilities are endless. Sonically fascinating, emotionally impactful and melodically memorable, it’s impossible that Far Caspian will remain a well-guarded secret for long.