Before he appeared on the radar of many in the indie community with a tuneful collaborative EP with Jay Som (2018's Nothing's Changed), singer/songwriter Justus Proffit had a couple of promising cassette releases under his belt establishing him as a disciple of Elliott Smith (and likely Smith's post-college band, Heatmiser). 2015's Magic was a noisy, pop-punk-informed EP, while 2017's Ups/Downs was stripped-down and intimate, but Proffit's melodicism and angsty lyrics commanded both. A year after Nothing's Changed, he returns with his full-length and Bar/None Records debut, L.A.'s Got Me Down. Inspired by a dark period for the Los Angeles native that included serious physical injury and the loss of multiple friends to overdoses, the album mixes raw, impulsive rock with complex chords and memorable melodies, essentially combining elements of his previous work, but with purpose. The record opens with a glitchy, noise-injected instrumental passage before launching into "Shadow of the Cross," a structured but unrefined blend of feedback, grunge-like distortion, and harmonic guitar pop that perfectly encapsulates the album's mix of anger, sadness, and resilience. On the next track, Proffit even sounds a little like Smith on the yearning "Solidified" ("Take me back to my childhood/Take me back"), a more straightforward, electric-guitar singer/songwriter tune. It should be said that Smith is not the only influence here, if the most evident, as the record incorporates a pastiche of alternative influences, particularly from the '90s. Later on, the melancholy beauty of "Painted in the Sound" would possibly undermine the other tracks' raucous nature except for its own loose, live, and slightly out-of-tune qualities. That imperfection is also reflected in lyrics peppered with words like "stuck," "deadbeat," and "decompose." While the album was recorded in a studio with engineer/producer Alex Resoagli, its impulsive sound was channeled by Proffit, who played all the instruments on the recording. The most intimate song by far on L.A.'s Got Me Down is an untitled bonus track for physical formats that really belongs on any encounter with the album. It includes a brooding Proffit with strummed guitar and harmony vocals, closing the album with a symbolic abrupt end to tape hiss via the sharp click of the stop button.
AllMusic Review by Marcy Donelson