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  • Andy Mockbee

Review: "My Friends Are Sober" - James Julian Villa

Life hands us endless reminders of our own aging. Baby shower invitations might as well be harbingers of youth's fossilization. On "My Friends Are Sober," James Julian Villa has this darkly humorous realization through the well being of his peers. Everyone's too busy getting their act together to have fun! The sharp wit of Villa's lyricism is matched impeccably with the colorful production. There's a vivid personality imbued in the deeply-textured instrumental: playful record scratches, dirty bass, and a bright drumbeat. The reality of "My Friends Are Sober" is melancholic beneath the humorous surface, and the production seamlessly integrates that as well. The lofi countermelodies from acoustic guitars give the affect something of a wry edge—like a crooked, toothy grin. Listen closely, however, and they leave you with a distinct sadness. We can laugh about getting old, but the longing for stability is no joke.

Much of Villa's lyricism coils between cleverly comical and disarmingly sobering (no pun intended). "Who needs friends when you've got heinekens / and three more years to spend until the kids start calling you old," he sings with either a smirk or a cringe. As everyone around him seems to be straightening up and moving on from the preoccupations of youth, Villa struggles to escape. "Life's such a bitch and then you die / Why waste it getting drunk and high," he croons, before sheepishly tacking on, "like I do?" He knows what's best for him, but knowing and doing are two different battles. Just as age might make one feel left behind, self-improvement can be just as isolating: feeding into the cycle of negative personal affect. "Why do I bother asking why?" The humor in "My Friends Are Sober" makes chilling moments like this hit like a bucket of ice water.

James Julian Villa is a multi-instrumentalist, producer, and songwriter based in Portland, Oregon. "My Friends Are Sober" is described as his first major release, but Villa has been making a name for himself producing and co-writing for local artists. His tiktok and youtube pages share insight into Villa's production process. Prior to moving to Portland, he studied music composition and piano in Canada, touring and performing in bands since his teen years. Villa's production has been finely tuned under the mentorship and collaboration with Lewis Childs. The two have been forming an ever-growing community of musicians and creatives at Groundswell Studios.

Written By Andy Mockbee

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