“Gotta get free, from people around me; then maybe I won’t be as lonely.”
A feeling of dissociation permeates the lyrical and instrumental elements of June Gloom’s most recent effort, Fake Problems. Released with the footnote of being “songs from college,” the album thematically resonates the experiences of relationships in early adulthood tangental to other feelings of detachment. Form fitting function regarding the overall ethos of Problems, the instrumental element of this half hour quasi-bildungsroman comes primarily in the form of discordant, noodling guitars, which serve as an excellent accompaniment to a concise blue sound throughout the record.
“Get Free” begins the record in a stumbling 3/4 time, starting softly but slowly taking its aforementioned refrain to harsher, more forward vocal extremes. The mitigation of softspokeness and raw, emotional vocal cracks form one of the core dynamics of Fake Problems, continued in the album’s second, titular track. On “Fake Problems,” June Gloom lay down a ’90s garage-rock sound akin to Weezer, again finding a resounding middle ground between high and low elements, all the while crafting melodic vocal lines. “Fake” remains a standout of this release in the ways that Jesse Paller, the lone writer and instrumentalist behind June Gloom, establishes remarkable balance in the mumbling, sadder depths of the project’s ethos and the more explosive elements of his instrumental performances.
In line with the Paller’s lyrical content (mainly comprised of brutally unapologetic emotional sentiments), June Gloom excels at combining insightful, sincere lyricism with simple, elegant melodies, often accompanied by instrumental syncopation. “Sad Surf,” the shortest song on the album, refrains throughout, “it’s funny how I tried to be like someone else, but in the end I realized I’m just myself,” while working a relatively basic-yet-engaging vocal line as jangling guitars pepper the downbeats. The album’s closer, “White Gold,” features a similarly simple chorus that plays counterpoint to the guitar line, creating a memorable and emotional build that best represents Paller’s talents.
However, while June Gloom’s strengths lie in its vocal and lyrical content, perhaps its greatest weakness comes as an effect of getting bogged down in the sometimes rambling, guitar-centric instrumental elements that permeate Problems. Even though the electric twang that forms of the core of this release’s sound comes off as fresh during the album’s first act, the instrumentals on tracks like “Safe” and “How I’m Doing” are almost outmoded by the time Problems is halfway over. June Gloom counters this in part by adding additionally interesting time signature switch-ups on tracks like “Dealer” and “White Gold” to counteract the occasionally mundane facets of its guitar work, but greater risks could have been taken by Paller as a means of continuing the engaging elements of the album’s beginning.
Fake Problems ends with a couple indiscreet background sounds and white noise, with similar clips appearing throughout the album at the tail ends of other tracks. As June Gloom seeks to bare it all on this personal and emotional release, it’s strange that a certain mystery remains despite all of the brutal honesty–an enigmatic quality echoed in the black and white album artwork and laconic liner notes. Regardless, the emotional honesty present on each track–interlaced between melancholy guitar patterns–makes for a satisfying record in the end.