The Chicago-born but now Los Angeles-based project, Young Jesus, led by the founding member, John Rossiter, is today announcing the new album, Shepherd Head (Saddle Creek)– out September 16, 2022 – alongside sharing the first single, “Ocean” which features additional vocals from labelmate, Tomberlin. The new music arrives following 2020’s critically-acclaimed breakthrough, Welcome to Conceptual Beach, which went on to garner significant praise for its balance of emotional warmth and more philosophical overtones. Prior to this, the band had released two other well-received albums, 2017’s self-titled LP and 2018’s The Whole Thing Is Just There.
The album standout, “Ocean”, which comes with a video directed by Stuart McClave, is a baroque pop marvel. Featuring vocals from Sarah Beth Tomberlin, the song is gentle but insistent. “God is just the ocean where I’m lost,” sings Rossiter. Footsteps and the crunch of leaves act as texture, while former Young Jesus bassist Marcel Borbón Peréz player plays a haunting, hopeful harmonic bass line over original drummer Peter Martin’s programmed percussion. With the convergence of old band members and new collaborators, a sense of calm pervades the song, the feeling of being lost and adrift, but letting go of control, trusting the waters to guide you someplace better. As Rossiter sings on the final line of the song, “Walk a fragile path to peace.”
Shepherd Head, which comes following the tragic death of Rossiter’s close friend, is a dramatic departure for the band, it delves deeper into the themes that have always fascinated the artist – love, loss, and God – approached in a completely new direction. It’s a record of growth and exploration, pushing forward into the future with hope while still holding the pain and regrets of the past, seeking a balance for the present. When recording the album, John opted for something completely different. He opened up the songwriting process, relying on collaboration and improvisation. Instead of the band’s usual method of months-long rehearsal before cranking out an album live in the studio in less than a week, Rossiter used found sounds, recording random people on the street, experimenting with white noise, piecing together scraps of songs from voice memos.
“I would pitch things down an octave and add strange reverb,” says Rossiter. “If a dog barked, I would isolate it and make it part of a beat. I recorded a voice singing on the street just walking by a storefront and autotuned it. Some guitar parts are just mistakes from voice memos that I chopped, stitched, and looped. I used sounds of rivers, people walking, friends talking. It was a lot of fun. I didn’t care about the fidelity of the recording. Whatever wanted to be in came in.”
Shepherd Head is an album of healing, of acceptance, of weakness, of love, and of hope. It’s the sound of an artist stretching himself, going to new places and facing the pain and fear of life. Gathering together the sounds of the world, from the chatter of friends to the footsteps of strangers, and building something new out of it. Something singular and unique. Something beautiful.