Joshua – Baggage EP

Joshua are quite the emo anomaly; once the darlings of the genre, their presence went from the thoroughfares of Napster’s best days to the unfortunate mumblings of “what ever happened to?” and the occasional joyous find at local Mom and Pop record stores.

Capturing much of the attention in their early Doghouse days, they reached a pinnacle through, of all things, a self-titled single that still holds their two finest offerings; “Divide Us” and “Your World is Over.” It is quite strange to think that while many of their counterparts (who ply their trade in very much the same scope) have ascended to far greater heights, Joshua have never scaled higher than occasional scene reminiscence and the inquisitive wondering of lost potential. Nonetheless, while they floated very much under the radar (I thought, at this point, they had clearly disbanded), their music never waned from the early musings they exhibited with convincing ability.

And indeed, it seems it has come time for their last hurrah; the Baggage EP is in fact their bidding of farewell. This joint release between English label Engineer and Spanish collective Trece Grabiciones, while musically sound, is perhaps not the best representation of their seven-year career. Baggage features five tracks (two of which are acoustic) that lean far more towards the undemanding side of indie rock rather than the sagging, emotional drain of their earlier work. The EP opens strong enough; “A Better Place” exhibits fluffy guitar riffs coupled with an extremely endearing refrain that finds its roots entrenched in boyish 60’s melodies. It is by far the release’s most compelling offering: neatly written, well-produced, while demonstrating a knack for radio-friendly “oohs oohs” and sugar-soaked harmonies.

“Repetition Forever” can be best described as a struggle between being calculatedly E-M-O and the more airy rock threads “A Better Place” exhibited. For the most part, the tune isn’t bad by any stretch – never to flail aimlessly at any one recognizable trap said three-letter genre is known for; but never really sticking it in any forceful manner. The song, for lack of a better explanation, is just there – not quite rockin’ out, but not quite being a black hole of watery, weary songwriting. The real gem of the bunch is “Perfect Man,” a no-nonsense pop-rock number that could have easily found itself as musical accompaniment to any nostalgic, 1960s one-hit-wonderdom; sounding at times, ever so similar to “That Thing You Do.”

There is little to be said about the EP’s acoustic tracks. Neither exceeds the mark of teary-eyed guitar twiddling, and both hash through nothing novel or remotely interesting for that matter. It leaves Baggage very brief, and for a parting shot one would probably want a little more. Nonetheless, the EP shows their songwriting at its most progressed; evolving from the extremely raw, and potently scarring constructs of their earliest material, to the more sophisticated, refined approach found here. In a sense, it mimics their career: a few bright flashes, a disappearing act and before you know it, a goodbye.

(Engineer Records / Trece Grabaciones)

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