Susto - Ever Since I Lost My Mind - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Susto - Ever Since I Lost My Mind

by Carrie Grayson Rating:8 Release Date:2019-02-22

Growth is natural and can be a subtle shaping over time that may not be obvious at first. It happens when you begin reflecting for insight and work toward the realization of your dreams. Susto’s newest release, Ever Since I Lost My Mind, out February 22 via Rounder Records, demonstrates the growth and transition of the lead singer/songwriter, Justin Osborne. Music for him began at 14 when he was sneaking to play his grandfather’s treasured guitar. With practice, he became a teenager singing punk songs about girls, and it eventually led to a six-piece band named Susto, tackling some pretty difficult subjects like religion, atheism, and drug use. Over the years, he poured his soul into music. Susto’s newest release finds Justin Osborne looking back and shifting his perspective as he journeys to true adulthood.

Charleston, SC, a city known for its history and tourism, isn’t the easiest place to build a music career. But, it was Charleston where Osborne found others with the creative passion of playing instruments, songwriting and producing music. A tight community was formed, with their home base in an odd tripped out storage shed, and those friends became a family and a lifeline for his music writing. Over the years, there was an ever-flowing change in band members for Susto. Some members would break off and form new bands and some would leave to play with others. Collaborative songwriting was their initial strength, and Osborne learned from each of the band members throughout the process of creating their last two records. So it seems fitting that Susto’s third album, their debut with Rounder Records, is Osborne's total creative vision. On, Ever Since I Lost My Mind, he wrote all the songs and Ian Fitchuk, the mastermind behind Gramming-winning Kacey Musgraves, was his new producer. Despite the production changes and a different record label behind him, he continued to receive key input from longtime creative sounding board, friend, and Charleston music producer, Wolfgang Zimmerman.

Looking adulthood square in the face, Osborne faces a new chapter in his growth. He now has a wife and a baby on the way, adding incredible joy but also a new focus. Because of these changes, the album is alive with this subtle shift in style and attitude. In his promotional photography for the album, Osborne is fully dressed in the raging ocean, soaked, and shouting, and it is a clear visual representation of his powerful internal shift, leaving behind boyhood and the careless frivolity associated with it. Leaning closely to Susto’s folk/rock/alt-country roots, the album captures Susto’s signature raucous rock, Osborne’s rough-hewn voice with emphatic yells or mellow croons, and the slow rolling catchy rhythms. All of those features helped them share stages in support of The Lumineers, The Head and The Heart, and Band of Horses.

The album is a musical roadmap to the songwriter in these songs, and it urges me to listen carefully to get a better understanding of who he is. Through Justin Osborne’s strong lyrical narrative, and rich varied vocals, the music makes him seem familiar as he lays it all out there, unapologetically, with raw emotion and honesty. Throughout, the songs travel from rowdy tunes which make you jump to your feet and sing along, to the sauntering, sizzling tunes of life’s hard choices and struggles. Each sound is varied and melodic, while the lyrics are clear and meant to be sifted and considered. The music doesn’t stay within the boundaries of any particular genre but explores mixing and combining them to keep it interesting.

Not a lengthy album, the twelve tracks on Ever Since I Lost My Mind hint at all of Osborne’s transitions. The opener, “Homeboy,” closely resembles the sound of Susto’s past work, with a rolling rhythmic beat, strong guitar work, and expansive sound. Lyrically, it makes comparisons to the changing paths of good friends, while questioning his own important choices. It sets the tone for the album’s glaring theme of self-reflection and transition. But, the distorted grinding guitars at the song’s end hints that any change is not without a struggle.

“Manual Transmission,” begins in chorus but yet seems wistful. Osborne is missing his girl while he is out on the road. The song expands on the tension between touring and succeeding with his music, while longing for home and loved ones. “House of the Blue Green Buddha” equally expresses the shift from party boy to sharing his life with someone he wants to go home to and the pleasure knowing she is there for him. Even the common everyday feature, like a blue-green buddha, provides comfort as he works through the changes in his mind.

“Está Bien” is a striking example of Osborne reflecting on his past. Ready to give up on his music as a career in college, he travelled abroad to dive into learning a new profession. He found that in Cuba, leaving music was impossible. Instead of connecting to his studies, he enjoyed exploring Cuba’s musical roots. Osborne returned to Charleston even more pumped to make a go of music and thus began the band, Susto. "Está Bien," is sung entirely in Spanish. Translated loosely it suggests, despite our difficult turbulent times, we will all be okay and it provides the reassurance we all seek. He seems to be nodding his cap to those facing immigration difficulties in the US today and letting them know he will never forget their important cultural contribution to his own journey. The Spanish song honors the acceptance of cultural differences in our country with a Latin heart. It expresses the push and pull of suffering and pain with hope and optimism, if only we accept and appreciate each other.

“Weather Balloon” is a romantic heart-thumper of a song. The random cracks in Osborne’s voice on this track are so genuine and sincere, suggesting the emotional power of his love and the need to be present enough to honor it. The song ends in a powerful minute long harmonica solo which melts away the final lyrics, “one look in your eye, it fills me up with hope, it changes my mind, it tells me I am not dead yet, no I am not dead yet, I am not dead yet.”

The songs, “Last Century” and “Livin’ In America," provide a nice reprieve from the refined tunes of his struggling consciousness. Both are rolling rock jams and anthemic crowd-pleasers with good rhythms and simple choruses. In the first, Osborne looks back and reflects the past knowing you can’t return, and in the other, he looks forward to traveling on tour. Lyrically light-hearted, they explore sonic territories and help push the album's momentum, proving the varied range of Susto.

The last four songs of the album are more acoustic and quietly restless. The energy slows with the title track, “Ever Since I Lost My Mind,” and the heartbreaker, bad boy song, “Cocaine.” Osborne is at his best in these songs, bearing his soul while strumming an acoustic guitar with softly brushed drums. “No Way Out,” conveys the power of the heart, with its subdued sound and lyrical poetic comparisons. The song slowly builds in intensity to heart-wrenching exclamations of finding no way out. Laid out, painful humanity spreads across the notes plucking at your very core. I sense a wrestling here, one foot not wanting to leave his wild boy days and one foot stepping into the unknown.

The closer, “Off You,” is relaxed and confessional. Despite its slow tempo and slide guitar suggesting a bit of sadness, Osborne breathes optimism and hope by accepting his coastal life as a way of finding natural beauty in moments of darkness. The beach replenishes itself and is always changing, a closing reminder one can rebuild and replace bad habits and create new memories with a new chapter. Osborne shows clarity and seems to take a tentative step forward.

As much as the songs reflect lead Justin Osborne and his vocal intensity, it is important to recognize his humility by allowing many of the songs to fade out in long instrumental endings. He provides adequate space for his band members to shine and share their incredible collective talents. It is a signature on many of the songs and proves to be pleasing and creatively balanced.

It is a daunting step to put yourself out there artistically, as Osborne has done on Ever Since I Lost My Mind. As he transitions to bonafide adulthood and responsibility become more of a focus, his new listeners and fans are probably doing so as well. We expect an adult to be serious, responsible, and grown up, but do we ever really grow up? His journey digs deep, he owns it, and we can all benefit from his truths. The push and pull of life and the many transitions one uses to navigate adulthood may be Osborne’s latest story, but his struggling, wondering path may very well be our own.

Comments (1)

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ooo love this review! Totally speaks to the album... I definitely love the older Susto, but his growth in songwriting and emotion seems natural and like a step forward.

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