Heartbreak disguised in soulful, delicate lyrical mastery: a review of Joesef’s debut album.
With the release of his debut album Permanent Damage, Joesef has created a track list of heartbreak, sexual exploration and nostalgic longing, while emulating his soulful delicate vocals as a dream-like escape from harsh realities. Long-awaited after the release of his two EPs, the album has only escalated the bittersweet melancholic overtone of his sound, which ties his voice to being that of Glasgow’s finest.
Growing up in the East End of Glasgow, Joesef pays homage to the raw beauty of everyday life, as the pain of heartbreak and loneliness is relayed to each listener like a conversation with an old friend. The vulnerability in his vocals carries in the sadboy persona he fits into, enabling him to sincerely and empathetically deliver his lyrics, driving the honesty and genuineness of this release.
Permanent Damage captures the state of loneliness in the navigation through crowds of old acquaintances, personal rediscovery, and queer questioning. The orchestral overture to the album in the first track, Permanent Damage, encompasses the cinematic intensity in its listening, where sentimental moments of love and loss are squeezed into each song like snapshots through a photo album.
The album truly begins with It’s Been a Little Heavy Lately: an opening invitation to the truth behind attachment. Joesef does not shy away from the mutual longing for company, even if it is momentary. This upbeat track abandons any sense of direction in self-control, as the need to be loved proves to be most significant. The album is introduced within the first listen as a sugary sedation of lucid, danceable hits, which then progresses with a few of his previous single releases. The third track, East End Coast, is Joesef’s love letter to his beloved hometown city of Glasgow, posing as one of the highlights of the album. Perfect for drive or a late-night walk, the listen will haunt you with old friends, streets, and bittersweet nostalgia.
Just Come Home with Me Tonight holds the theme of the album. It delves into the grey area between love and lust, where just one more night with that person may not be the right choice, yet all judgement is clouded. Through the laid-back relaxing sound, Joesef’s vulnerability gives many the company to engage with the one they miss. The back-and-forth notion – one of resisting going back as you know it’s the wrong decision – and giving into overpowering emotions, is something which Joesef continuously streams through his lyrics to leave listeners coming back for more.
I sat down to listen to the album in full the night of its release and immediately fell in love with Didn’t Know How (to Love You). Within the first few seconds of the neo-soul, funk opening, I had claimed it as Joesef’s best song to date. Here, he has experimented with gospel influences and heavily syncopated funk beats, creating a refreshing sound of 70s funk and soul in this decade’s order of alt-pop albums.
The sonic arrangement of each track in turn begins to dilute towards the end of the album, creating a glaze of loneliness and isolation over the syncopated, light instrumentalism. Yet through these dark, elongated moments of reaction and remembering, the joyful, intimate moments of first loves and new experiences continue to shine through.
Permanent Damage will never be lost to those who have lost a part of themselves. Joesef’s raw treatment of the feelings lost in your memories makes the album a first choice for musical condolence. This debut album is one for the romantics. If anything, the self-exploration in each track – through heartbreak and sadness – provides a glimmer of hope for those still searching between the cracks of disappointment in the ever-changing state of growing older.