This may be the first piece I’ve written about a completely independent artist. As such, I’ll encourage you more than normal to check out the performer and his work because if anyone deserves it, it’s John.
Full disclosure: John Gold is a friend of mine, and has been for some time.
Couldn’t tell you at what point that happened, but I’m guessing it’s because I’ve been to more JG shows over the years than I can count. Countless times I’ve gone out of my way to suffer through 10,000 shitty hardcore bands at a show just so I could, at some point, hear a few JG songs.
I think this is the best testament to the power of his music and the sincerity of his message than anything else I could write.
That’s the way Central Florida’s scene was for a long, long time: a bizarre, haphazard mix of some of the worst hardcore/metalcore bands you’ve ever put in your ear cavities, offset by a rare few indie rock-minded bands. I think it’s some sort of unwritten rule that if you live anywhere south of Jacksonville and north of Miami and you want to play in a band, at some point you have to join a hardcore group and play bland, formulaic breakdowns and learn to pig squeal. After you’ve paid your dues, you can play in a real band.
It’s like musical hazing, only no one is going to die on a tour bus (looking at you, FAMU).
Hell, if I’m not mistaken, that’s how John started: playing drums in a hardcore band. Dude has been writing and recording since his early teens, and has built a respectable fan base here in the Sunshine State. On his second full length, Hours, he even dabbled in rap – in the least ironic way possible.
Now, nearly a decade after I first became aware of John Gold, the “scene” here is all but dead. Everyone in it grew up and moved out of the area or wifed up and started making babies. I will admit that Central Florida is now home to a number of decent folk-inspired artist.
It’s for this exact reason that I’m glad John has stuck around as long as he has. He continues to make music; not letting his dream die because the fat of whatever pathetic scene we once had has been cut away.
I’ve seen him in front of 5 people, and what at the time felt like 500. And while he’s never gotten a ton of press, his album release shows always manage to draw a packed house – or library, or venue, or whatever.
JG is one of the most honest, genuine guys I’ve ever met. He plays a couple of well-worn guitars and, occasionally, a ukulele. That’s how The Aleph kicks off. The album checks in at 11 songs and an interlude (“Wolves Chasing Deer” – a wolfitude?). Gold played the majority of the instruments on the album, with additional vocals by friends and former members of his one-time live band, The Old Souls.
Gold’s music is influenced by spirituality, but not one faith in particular. Call it universalism or positivity in general, but on songs like “I Want To Teach You” and “The Son,” that inspiration is clear.
Perhaps the most easily-apparent characteristic of Gold’s music is his voice. To me, JG’s vocals serve as an additional member of the band because of the way he is able to stretch and manipulate them. As an example, on “All Night Long,” the word “long” becomes, in effect, a shape, shifting upward and cascading downward. Soulful stuff.
The main complaint about Gold’s work may be the aforementioned vocal style (and I’ll admit, it’s an acquired taste) – or his lyrics, which JG maintains he leaves “open to interpretation.” That may drive some people crazy, but it’s refreshing in a way. Not only does the listener draw conclusions about the meaning of the words – they can draw conclusions about the actual words themselves.
For a variety of intensely personal reasons, John’s music means as much to me as any other artist I’ve listened to. It just so happens to be that he lives 20 minutes away from me. Definitely merits a listen.
And since it’s considered more EP than full length and I won’t be reviewing it this year, please also check out Cogito Ergo Sum (“I think, therefore I am”) on iTunes. It contains two quintessential JG songs: “Run Run Run” and “The Winding Road” – both highlights of his newer work.
From his 2011 release The Aleph, this is the music video for John Gold’s “Child of Light” –
Standout tracks: “Raindance” and “White Wedding”
Weakest track: Nah.
RIYL: Singer-songwriters. NOT the John Gold from California, that guy is a dooooouche.