Review: PJ Western Shares a Striking Debut

PJ Western/Here I Go/New West
Three Out of Five Stars

PJ Western, the pseudonym for Joshua Epstein, a member of the duo known as JR JR, or, as it was known, Dale Earnhardt Jr Jr before that, creates a mesmerizing musical mash-up on the aptly named Here I Go, one that keeps the listener guessing practically every step of the way. The first hint of that idiosyncrasy occurs on the very first song in the set, which also happens to be the title tune, where Western veers from some mellow meandering into a rousing refrain. The contrast in tone and treatment makes for a most intriguing dynamic.

The other songs in the set are decidedly diverse as well. The solid stomp and jangly melody shared on “Hit Man” and the lilting, carefree embrace of “Can’t Relax” make each track certain standouts. Likewise, the crashing cacophony that characterizes “Long Time Coming” places it at odds with the calming caress given “Vast Sea,” and to a much lesser extent, the boisterous and upbeat “Blah Blah Blah.” 

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I’ve got new fans yet to be, Western declares on the latter, and indeed, his optimism is well founded. Here I Go is a cleverly conceived work, one which grabs attention and keeps a connection all the way through. Even when he occasionally goes off-course, as on the funk-fueled number titled “Degenerate Friends,” it’s simply another example of Western’s willingness to turn things upside down and follow his muse wherever it might lead him.

Still, the music he makes is strangely compelling. It makes us want to lean in and listen, even when we’re not sure what we’ll find once we do. Western is, after all, a remarkably freewheeling, free-spirited individual, and ultimately, that attitude serves him well. Here I Go makes for an auspicious debut, and where Western goes from here should certainly be well worth watching.

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