Will Johnson's "Scorpion"

Will Johnson's "Scorpion"

  • Article by: Blake Boldt
  • Posted: 09/11/2012

As lead singer of Centro-matic and South San Gabriel, as well as a collaborator with Monsters of Folk and The New Multitudes, Will Johnson has established himself as one of the most consistently driven artists in indie rock. The Austin-based performer expands his reach even further on Scorpion, his first solo album in eight years. As with his group efforts, his gritty voice and wistful reflections are his bread-and-butter.

Recorded with frequent collaborator and Centro-matic bandmate Matt Pence, the album's stripped-down arrangements showcase Johnson's gruff baritone, which often hints at more than he's telling and sounds thoughtful throughout. His abstract songs, in absence of concrete details, have plenty of sting thanks largely to that ragged voice. The terse and unsentimental "You Will Be Here, Mine" sets the mark for this series of raw performances, most featuring just Johnson and a gently-strummed guitar. In a hushed tone, the atmosphere is doom-and-gloom with just a glimmer of hope. Johnson sings from the perspective of a "full-time, grown-up fool" and songs like "The Blackest Sparrow" and "It Goes Away Fast" also play out as acoustic exorcisms where he sounds compelled to release his demons. 

A certain sameness sets in about midway through, and Johnson might have dared to throw a wrinkle or two into the album. "Rosansky," the second track and a more uptempo instrumental number, offers some needed levity among the raw and often repetitive performances.

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