Justus Proffit

Speedstar

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Speedstar Review

by Marcy Donelson

Justus Proffit's second full-length follows a string of EPs, including the Jay Som collaboration Nothing's Changed, and a 2019 debut album. Between releases, the twentysomething Proffit got sober and continued to operate Topspace, a D.I.Y. venue and living space in Inglewood, at least until the COVID-19 virus hit the States. Briefly quitting music, he eventually returned to writing and recording with a more elemental approach. The resulting Speedstar strips away much (though not all) of the noise and clatter of L.A.'s Got Me Down, leaving the Elliott Smith and L.A. punk disciple with a grounded set that puts even more emphasis on sentiments like "Upside Down Entertainer" and "There Goes the Fun." Speedstar was recorded partly at home, at a friend's, and at Phil Elverum's Anacortes Unknown studio in Washington State, a converted church whose cherished reverb can be heard on opening track "River of All My Feelings." A gentle Wall of Sound comprising lush guitar jangle, midtempo drums and crash cymbals, clanking windchimes, and phrase-marking keyboard chords cushion vocals about living in the present, one of the album's guiding themes. "Every day/Things get further away/I don't believe in yesterday" are lines from "Spitting on the Sidewalk," another one of eight under-three-minute entries here with ghosts of Smith in its melodic and harmonic qualities. Another one, jangly jammer "Big Mistake," pushes the tempo, lights up the guitar solo, and throws in doo wop-derived backing vocals (like everything else by Proffit) without backing off the melancholia even a smidgen. The sparser "Change" further exposes the songwriter's knack for melodic and rhythmic hooks at their purest, using just voice and guitar. He does indulge noise elsewhere, most notably on the fuzzy "Invitation Declined," which ends in a burst of sustained distortion. Alongside nine original songs, Proffit includes a cover of Martin Newell's "Jangling Man" that colors in any available spaces on the already antagonistic original with layered guitar, bass, and more cymbal. The compact Speedstar ends too soon on the hummable "Thinking Type," likely to again leave fans wanting more of his engaging, shambolic pop.

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