Permanent Damage

Joesef’s Debut Album ‘Permanent Damage’ Takes Him to New Heights

Joesef has had quite the career, seeing his rise to fame quickly after his 2019 debut. Now only four years later, the Glasgow-born singer has gained an enormous following including famous fans such as Sir Elton John. With his laidback vocals alongside reverb-heavy production and detuned guitars, Joesef teams up with the very accomplished producer Barney Lister to create an expansive and vulnerable pop album. Moreover, the high points of soaring chorales and production make you feel lost. It is a powerful debut that sometimes fails to justify its length. 

Find Joesef and all the other upcoming acts on IndustryMe’s ‘The Purple List’

To start proceedings, the heavenly quivering strings of the titular track ‘Permanent Damage,’ opens this therapy session of an album with the admission that it is difficult for him to talk about. Lines such as “Cause you know everything that’s on my mind // But knowing everything don’t make it right” sets the tone of the album, an admission of guilt that permeates throughout. Coming off his hit single ‘The Sun is Up Forever,’ this album feels like cementing a style rather than building something completely new.      

The second track ‘It’s Been a Little Heavy Lately’ feels like a tighter version of that track. It’s a spacey dancefloor banger with beautiful synths and a really driving drumline. The chorus evokes shades of ‘Late Night Talking’ by Harry Styles. Joesef’s vocals are soft and personal, singing about unrequited love. This is one of the more pop-influenced tracks on the project alongside ‘Didn’t Know How (to Love You)’ and ‘Joe’ and this is where Joesef and Lister quite excel. These songs are tight and play into Joesef’s strengths. The choral section of  ‘Didn’t Know How (to Love You)’ is so beautiful. This makes you forget that the song is about cheating on a partner. It stands out on the album as one of the few songs that are unapologetic and assured of itself.  

The LP focuses on Joesef’s feeling of being lost in a metropolitan existence. It explores all corners of loneliness from in and out of relationships. Further to this, his vocals often report on feelings of loss with lyrics echoing in the great empty rooms he sits in. He details loss, cheating, being the cheater, and a permanent feeling of isolation. Whether moving to a new city on ‘East End Coast’ or from a lover in ‘Borderline,’ Joesef feels lonely and desires love.

‘Most of the album, I feel like I’m on my hands and knees trying to make sense of things.’

Joesef speaking on ‘Didn’t Know How (to Love You)

Moments like this are present on tracks like ‘Moment,’ ‘Shower,’ and ‘Borderline.’ These songs are huge intimate ballads and are some of the more beautiful moments on the project. In particular, the great building choral arrangement of ‘Shower’ is a glorious climax. Even his intimate moments such as the production of ‘Borderline’ makes it feel conversational as a song. This is despite being hampered by the mixing leaning into an echo effect a little too much. What results is the vocals sound quite harsh by the song’s end.

However, Permanent Damage does suffer from the weight of the album. It is a standout 10-track LP that is unfortunately 13-tracks long. The tracklist becomes a little too self-indulgent with some of the slower tracks feeling interchangeable with one another. There are moments on some songs that feel of lower quality. For example, the mix on ‘Shower’ despite an astounding ending is marred by the overuse of vocal effects. 

As a debut, this is very strong. He knows his strengths while not straying too far from his comfort zone. Furthermore, this is a beautiful album and sometimes haunting and the elegant storytelling is great. However, the LP’s length is not justified by the stories told. A project about loss that gets a little lost in itself, this sums up that pandemic feeling. Here Joesef is marked as an enticing figure to watch going forward. 

Joesef is on Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok.

You can listen to ‘Permanent Damage‘ below:

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