Joshua Worden is a solo artist out of Atlanta who defines his music as “an original blend of R&B, jazz, and indie pop with electronic production.” It has been compared to the work of Frank Ocean, Raphael Saadiq and James Blake. The comparison is apt. If you like that Ocean vibe, there’s a good chance you’ll like what Worden does with it.
And he does it all himself on Always This, his first album—at least almost all himself. He’s written, arranged, produced and performed all 10 of the tunes, except for an assist from rapper BLCTXT on the last song. Officially trained on the jazz guitar, Worden handles the synthesizer and keys, the samples and of course the vocals. On his videos, he is working with a drummer and his website says he works with drummer Will Montgomery, Montgomery’s name does not appear in any of the credits on the album.
Worden describes his music as downbeat and introspective. It is indeed quite low key and laid-back. There is a feeling of sameness about the songs, a feeling by the way which is less apparent in his videos. Of course what I am calling sameness could just as easily be called unity of aesthetic vision. And if you have an aesthetic vision, doing it all yourself makes it possible to stick to it. On the other hand, there is an advantage to working with other voices, people that might be able to add both some variety and even a critical eye.
Individually, Worden’s songs are often interesting compositions filled with poetic insight. Listening to 10 in a row, it is sometimes difficult to tell them apart. They all seem to merge into one another, and that’s unfortunate, because they deserve to be heard on their individual merits. Check out the dynamic performances on the videos of songs like “The Line” and “Midnight.” Good songs like “The Hunter,” “The Turning Quiet,” and “Embers” can get lost in the crowd.
I guess what I would like is a little more of what I would call obvious variety, variety that makes itself clear to the listener. Adding BLCTXT to the last track helps, but more of that kind of collaboration wouldn’t hurt. Too often, the album’s cerebral introspection comes across like what the Victorian poet and critic Matthew Arnold called “the dialogue of the mind with itself.”