A onetime member of the West Coast neo-psychedelic bands the Three O'Clock and Jellyfish, Jason Falkner went out on his own by 1996, playing jagged power pop with impeccable arrangements, a clue to both his classically trained childhood and additional time spent working on the first LP by another classical popster, Eric Matthews. Born in Los Angeles in 1968, Falkner grew up listening to West Coast pop bands like Love and Crosby, Stills & Nash but later began taking piano lessons in preparation for a classical career. Pop music regained control of his life when he discovered his sister's punk/new wave collection, and Falkner began playing the guitar, later appearing in several bands from his high school. Not long after graduation, Falkner joined the Three O'Clock, leaders of the Los Angeles paisley underground scene, for their major-label debut (but sixth LP overall), 1988's Vermillion. Though solid, the album was unfortunately their last, and the band broke up soon after. Less than a year later, Falkner was convinced by an old friend, Roger Manning, to move up to San Francisco to join his new band, Jellyfish, with brother Chris and Andy Sturmer. Though the group gained recognition in alternative circles and released a pleasing debut album, Falkner was unhappy with his role in the band, that of guitarist (and not much else), so he left the band after the one album. Vowing to never play in another band again, he bent the promise not long after by joining the loose collective known as the Grays, four musicians who hated the confines of most groups and thus decided to do everything in their power to avoid the pitfalls. Being such a laid-back band, however, resulted in the release of just one album, 1994's Ro Sham Bo. Again on the dole, Falkner worked with Eric Matthews on the 1996 LP It's Heavy in Here, and finally got what he had been looking for all the time: a solo deal. Through Elektra Records, he released his acclaimed debut, Presents Author Unknown, also in 1996. Being a solo artist didn't mean that he locked himself away working on his own tunes exclusively. That same year he co-wrote songs for Brendan Benson's One Mississippi and played a variety of instruments on Susanna Hoffs' self-titled album. He continued his relationship with Matthews, playing on his second album, 1997's The Lateness of the Hour, then in early 1999 issued his own sophomore effort, Can You Still Feel?, which was co-produced by Nigel Goodrich. Falkner decided to end his contract with Elektra at this point and turned his attention toward things other than his own music. He did session work for Chris Cornell and Soulwax, while also producing an album for the Brown Eyed Susans. His connection with Goodrich paid off with a gig playing bass for Air, both on 2001's 10,000 Hz Legend album and on-stage. It wasn't a full-time job, though, leaving Falkner with time to work again with Brendan Benson on his 2001 Lapalco album and Travis on their record The Invisible Band. Topping off a busy year, the Spin Art label released a collection of Falkner's home recordings, Necessity: The 4-Track Years; the Japanese label Air Mail Recordings issued a collection of demos and covers called Everyone Says It's On; and Falkner teamed with Columbia Records to release Bedtime with the Beatles, a covers album featuring instrumental lullabies of Fab Four favorites. Throughout the rest of the decade, Falkner balanced session work, production, and his own recordings. He worked with Air, Beck, Aimee Mann, Lisa Loeb, Ben Lee, Gnarls Barkley, Glen Campbell, and memorably, Paul McCartney, while producing albums for Anne Soldaat and Daniel Johnston. He released the Bliss Descending EP in 2004 for Wreckchords Records and I'm OK You're OK for Noise McCartney Records in 2007, and did a second installment of instrumental Beatles covers, Bedtime with the Beatles, Pt. 2, for Adrenaline Records in 2008. Despite being ridiculously busy, he found time to form a synth rock band with his Jellyfish bandmate Roger Manning and Air drummer Brian Reitzell called TV Eyes. Their self-titled album from 2006 was only released in Japan, though it was given a deluxe reissue in 2014 by Omnivore Records. Falkner finished up the new millennium's first decade with the release of his fourth solo album, All Quiet on the Noise Floor, again on Noise McCartney Records. The first half of the 2010s was filled with a busy schedule of sessions, including albums by Charlotte Gainsbourg, Dwight Yoakam, Primal Scream, Blonde Redhead, Nikki Yanofsky, and his old friend Beck who, after years of trying, finally prevailed upon Falkner to join his live band. This gig seemed to slow down his session schedule, though he did produce an album by Syd Arthur in 2016 and work with power pop legend Emitt Rhodes on his long-awaited comeback album, Rainbow Ends. Around that time he teamed with another, far more prolific legend, R. Stevie Moore, on an album of collaborations, revamped Moore classics, and even a new Falkner original. That album, Make It Be, was released by Bar/None Records in early 2017.
© John Bush & Tim Sendra /TiVo
© John Bush & Tim Sendra /TiVo
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Rock - Released October 19, 2004 | Wreckchords
Jason Falkner's Bliss Descending EP marks the end of a five-year wait for more powerful pop from one of the leading figures on the guitar pop scene. Oh, he's been busy with various projects but this is the first release under his name. From the sound of it, the EP could have been recorded the week after 1999's Can You Still Feel? It has the same hook-happy songcraft, clean but not slick production, and vocal purity. The only thing slightly different is a bit more reliance of synthesizers (as on "They Put Her in the Movies"). All five songs would have sounded great on an album, no filler to be found. Best of the batch are the textured ballad (handclaps, harpsichord, rich vocal harmonies and swirling synths) "Moving Up," and the hard-charging rocker "The Neighbor." "Lost Myself" is pretty swell too with dynamic shifts and a super dreamy chorus. Really, the whole EP is on par with the high quality of all of Falkner's work. The only downside is that this isn't the way overdue full-length record. Then again at least we Falkner fanatics have this EP to wave over our heads like the flag of the pop underground nation. That's fine consolation. © Tim Sendra /TiVo