Release Date: Sep 17, 2013
Record label: SQE
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Adult Alternative Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Singer/Songwriter
Good Graces is well overdue, and not just because its UK release date was pushed back by two months at the eleventh hour. It’s taken Johnathan Rice six years to follow up his sophomore full-length, Further North, although he did produce a record with significant other Jenny Lewis back in 2010 – the superb I’m Having Fun Now was credited jointly to Jenny and Johnny. With Lewis’ attentions since then having been dominated by touring duties with The Postal Service and the production of a neat bookend for her old band, Rilo Kiley, in the form of the RKives compilation, Rice found himself in a position to go it alone for the first time in a good while.
There’s a cosy part of California where the past 40 years haven’t meant a damn. This sweet, tree-shaded spot is populated by affable dudes with straggly hair, man-crushes on David Crosby and a liking for afternoon bong hits. Chilling out alongside Dawes, Jonathan Wilson and Father John Misty is Johnathan Rice and his third solo album. “We can make love at half past three”, he hums over the ’70s sunshine riffs of ‘Acapulco Gold’, while ‘Lou Rider’, featuring Jenny Lewis, is the sound of a beachside Velvet Underground.
Similar in style and cadence to I'm Having Fun Now, his 2010 collaboration with longtime collaborator/ significant other Jenny Lewis, Laurel Canyon-based singer/songwriter Johnathan Rice's rootsy, jangle pop-tinged third solo outing cruises on by like a retired muscle car on a sunset drive, but there's a darkness to Good Graces that suggests a long and difficult journey filled with overcast days and stormy nights. Things begin innocuously enough with the breezy "Acapulco Gold," an ode to weed, love, and second chances that, like much of the record, falls somewhere between the less bombastic side of Springsteen, the lovelorn, urban folk-rock of Jackson Browne, and the unassuming, dirt road anthems of Gin Blossoms, but songs like the propulsive, National-esque "Nowhere at the Speed of Light" and the twang-kissed title track, despite their sunny, melodic disposition, are largely fueled by desperation, a theme that bubbles up from between cracks in the road more often than not throughout the nine-track collection. Lewis provides backing vocals throughout, and her occasional callbacks and wordless howls provide Good Graces with an ache that Rice's fluid, yet unremarkable croon yearns for but never quite captures.