Montréal-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, animator and visual artist Jonathan Robert may be best known for being a co-founder and co-lead vocalist of internationally acclaimed JOVM mainstay act Corridor. But over the past years, Robert has also become an acclaimed solo artist, writing and performing with the moniker Jonathan Personne.
Robert’s Jonathan Personne debut, 2019’s Histoire Naturelle sonically drew from desert dream pop, Western Spaghetti rock and jangle pop. Thematically, the album’s material thematically focused on the potential end of the world. But with the album’s oddly prescient timing, it might have hit the nail a bit too hard on the head . . .
His Jonathan Personne sophomore album, 2020’s Guillaume Chiasson-produced Disparitions was primarily written while the Montréal-based artist was touring with Corridor, and came about in a quick and fluid fashion. The album saw Robert continuing upon the hook-driven yet intimate and sensitive songwriting that has won him acclaim as a solo artist, but was largely inspired by a moment when music became a source of profound disgust for him. “I spent a lot of time touring away from home. Towards the end I felt like I was reluctantly going to do something that I had longed wished for,” Robert explained in press notes.
The Montréal-based singer/songwriter and musician’s third Jonathan Personne album, last year’s Emmanuel Èthier-produced Jonathan Personne was released by Bonsound. Written alone on an acoustic guitar in a cottage, the album took an unexpected turn, when the Montreal-based artist went to Québec City-based Le Pantoum with his friends and frequent collaborators Samuel Gougoux (drums), Julian Perreault (guitar), Mathieu Cloutier (bass) and the aforementioned Éthier (violin, synths, mellotron, vocals and production). The album’s material features arrangements centered around electric guitar, 12-string acoustic guitar, Rhodes, timpani, mellotron, synths, violin and even samples, the eight-song album continues Robert’s reputation for crafting material inspired by 60s pop and Spaghetti Westerns but with samples from obscure TV shows and movies, blistering rock grooves and extravagant guitar licks, the album features a more polished production than previous releases.
Packaged with a Jonathan Robert illustration in which two children discover the remains of a dead body, the album thematically is rooted in duality: While continuing his reputation for breezy guitar pop, the album’s material is simultaneously brutal and sinister, yet candid. The album’s material evokes a mysterious world where ghosts, the supernatural, fate and broken characters with broken lives all intertwine and interact.
In the lead-up to the album’s release, I wrote about three of the album’s singles:
- “Un homme sans visage” a deceptively breezy song centered around an arrangement of gorgeous Mellotron-driven melody, jangling guitar, simple yet propulsive rhythms, bursts of lap steep, big hooky choruses and Robert’s plaintive falsetto. While continuing to be lovingly inspired by the sounds of the late 60s, the song is a bittersweet, modern fable of sorts that tells a story about a man, whose face is badly burned in a fire.
- “Rock & roll sur ton chemin,” a deceptively straightforward rocker centered around a loose and breezy surf rock-like riff and a churning groove paired with dreamily delivered falsetto harmonies and Robert’s penchant for big, catchy hooks paired with subtle amounts of bongo, Mellotron and whistles. But despite it’s breezy air, the song is bittersweet and drenched with irony with the song being a tribute to dying art forms and those, who still practice them. “Devoting oneself to a genre destined to failure, there’s something pathetic about it, but also something very beautiful,” Robert says.
- “À présent,” a song that sounds indebted Scott Walker‘s orchestral pop and Phil Spector‘s famous Wall of Sound production but with a big emphasis on the jangling rhythm section, which subtly pushes the whole affair into more contemporary realm. Thematically, the song depicts a world where excess, speed and love coexist in a setting that’s kind of a synthesis of Romeo and Juliet and James Dean’s life with the song’s central couple dying in a horrific accident.
Jonathan Personne‘s latest single “Deux yeux au found d’une pièce noire” is a fairly straightforward, jangle pop rocker that showcases Robert’s unerring knack for crafting catchy hooks paired with a deceptively anachronistic, psych pop-like sound. Initially conceived as one of the album’s mellower tracks, it eventually evolved into one of its more intense. Thematically, the song is about premonition and spirits, and is inspired by odd incidents taht took place at Robert’s cottage.
Directed by Liam Hamilton, the album features a unique animation style that combines hand-drawn illustrations with collages from cut-outs of Robert/Personne singing and playing guitar. Visually, the video brings Monty Python to mind.