Ringing in the New Year with heartbreak and harmonies, neo-soul and alternative R&B artist Joesef’s debut album “Permanent Damage” spins a story of his setbacks and marks an era of evolved sound for the up-and-coming artist. The 13 track, genre-stretching LP centers around his recent life, ranging from most recent relationship and his move to London to themes of change, loneliness, and heartache that intertwined their way throughout. Soulful in both its style and sentiment, Joesef’s rich voice carries the listener through a movie-produced journey of beautiful instrumentation, nostalgic sound, and incredibly touching music that will leave any listener close to tears.
Hailing from Glasgow, Scotland, Joesef is still beginning to make his way around the block in the music industry. While the breakthrough in his career as an artist began quite unconventionally through a drunken karaoke performance in his hometown, it’s clear that this passion for music has long run through Joesef’s soul. Musically, his work draws inspiration with no limits for genre and time, ranging from the sounds of The Mamas and The Papas to Tame Impala and Kendrick Lamar. Yet, even with a wide net of external creative pulls, Joesef has found a way to truly make his own sound. His work — from his full and rich production to his incredibly smooth blend of indie, R&B, and soul — is truly a testament to his strengths and evolution as an artist.
“Permanent Damage” carries similar themes to Joesef’s previous work, yet adds an exploration of self that brings a new sense of completeness, aesthetic, and resonance to himself and many others. “When I moved to London, my goal was to advance my sound and evolve it,” he stated in an interview with The Herald — and this album easily proves true to these aspirations. Joesef’s body of work is a dissection of his triumphs and trials in love, sexuality, and the everlasting attempt to find a new sense of self after indefinite change, and is one which he sprawls across the page in technicolor ink.
The story of “Permanent Damage” is one that reads as a flashback through a film camera: each memory flickering through the whir of a picture frame and washed in the bittersweet pangs of nostalgia. Blending his own memories with the aesthetic of old soul and hazy 90s movies, Joesef guides listeners through the dark of London’s nightlife and the mornings after, as well as the many solemn days of reflection that followed. He touches on the high found through hatred of an ex-lover through the rhythmic and upbeat track “It’s Been a Little Heavy Lately,” all the way to his bleakest moments of the relationship in the acoustically lead “Blue Car.” “Most of the album, I feel like I’m on my hands and knees trying to make sense of things,” Joesef tells Apple Music. While flush full with emotionally elevated pieces and deeply personal storytelling, Joesef creates an album both resonant to his audiences and earnestly reflective of his own experiences. It’s cathartic, it’s driven, it’s compelling, and that’s exactly what makes it click.
Despite being a self-proclaimed “sad boy,” Joesef’s music and messages run far deeper than this potentially surface-level phrase. “In the end, change doesn’t always have to be a negative thing. It always makes you a better person, regardless of whether you feel that at the time,” he states, reflecting on the album’s closer “All Good.” “Permanent Damage” marks a story of Joesef’s growth both as an artist and as a person, taking his post-relationship perspective and sharing it with an audience who resonates and understands.
While indefinite, the changes that Joesef depicts — from the beginnings of his life away from Glasgow to the endings of a relationship — are not those to run from, but those that prompt a new stage and new growth to life. In Joesef’s own words, as seen through the sentiment of “Permanent Damage” and the messages it carries, “It’s always worth making it through the other side.”