Premiere: Jouska’s debut full-length ‘Topiary’

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Been bothered so long that I forgot what I was first bothered about” is how Topiary the debut full-length from the Albany, NY quartet Jouska, begins. It’s a record full of introspection, angst, and the erratic feelings that come as a result of struggling to cope with reality. “The world is great/the world is good/the world is shit/my hometown sucks” songwriter Doug Dulgarian declares on opener “Marcel”. That part begins with a mumble and grows into a manic, unfettered shout that feels more like a cry of desperation than a juvenile rejection of one’s hometown.

That’s one of the beautiful traits of this record. It feels authentic. It feels genuine. It doesn’t feel contrived or melodramatic, which is a trap that many bands of Jouska’s ilk often fall into. They’re clearly influenced by the emo genre, showing traces of The World Is a Beautiful Place on the intro of “In Vestal,” with the noodly, yet hooky lead that ascends like a post-rock song. At times, Dulgarian’s nasally voice also resembles that of TWIABP’s David Bello or Foxing’s Conor Murphy, again drawing comparisons to that style of post-rocky emo.

However, the production on this record has a dreamy, homemade quality to it that would fit snuggly on the roster of Brooklyn bedroom pop label Orchid Tapes. Bands such as Foxes in Fiction, Elvis Depressedly, and even Julia Brown come to mind. Particularly Foxes in Fiction with their hazy, semi-conscious vocal delivery and their infatuation with reverb.

Despite the comparisons Topiary definitely has its own feel. Like the track “Marcel”, “Friend of a Friend” has this achiness to it that slowly intensifies as the song becomes increasingly discordant, chaotic and noisy. “Super” has got the hook of the record (the chorus, “Still we’ve got no place to go” is infectious) but the band abandons that two-thirds of the way through for the buildup to a pummeling, drum-heavy outro. The digitally-produced beat of “Kissing through yr teeth” is the record’s most sudden left turn, but it works exceedingly well as a way to introduce the more experimental direction of the second half of the record.

“H.W.K.I.H.S.” is a grainy, all-acoustic track that wouldn’t be out of place on the new Teen Suicide album, and “Changeling” is a dreary little bedroom pop song a la the aforementioned Elvis Depressedly. Lastly, the gorgeous, glittering “Voyeur” is an excellent conclusion to the album, proving the band’s range is strong enough to remain interesting throughout a full, 45-minute project.

Jouska will be digitally self-releasing Topiary via their Bandcamp on September 6. However, the band will be performing at their dual-release show alongside Albany darlings Prince Daddy & the Hyena on September 24 in downtown Albany. Check out the event flyer below for more information on what should be one of the greatest DIY shows on the East Coast this fall.