“The most prominent [theme] is that of struggle,” notes the press release for Jason Myles Goss’ folk record Radio Dial. Loss and strife are certainly recurring motifs – even clichés – in contemporary folk. But in his newest release since 2009, Goss does more than just recount personal woes. Radio Dial is a companion for late-night drives and the soundtrack for solitary sunsets – an anthem that basks in the darkness on its quiet search for light. Drummer Joel Arnow, bassist David Dawda, guitarist Austin Nevins, and keyboardist Sam Kassirer join Goss on the journey.
Opened by a tense, highly repeating guitar rhythm, “Lion’s Mouth” spearheads a dark momentum. Dawda’s electric bass slices into the fog while Goss’ vocals envelop the airwaves. His voice grows sultry and secretive as the piece inches forward, each lyric laced with eerie hypnotism. A steel drum echoes in the distance as Goss paints scenes of drear and revolt, slyly questioning, ”Can you see the moon hanging low? Feel the turning in your guts, sharp and slow?”
The ominous aesthetic takes a soulful turn in “Black Lights”, a narrative depicting a boxer’s troubled rise to fame. Goss propels the track with wrenching lyrics and muscular vocals, evoking a fighter’s stone-cold concentration. When Arnow’s drums spark the chorus, Goss’ composure yields. As he describes the hollow bond between a boxer and his fans, the vibe turns intimate and fiercely revelatory, conjuring the sight of a singer and his listeners.
“Into the Night” and “New York City” hearken back to the rock-tinged feel of Another Ghost, Goss’ 2005 release. Arnow’s heavy cymbal rhythm fuels the former song, infusing Goss’ pleading lyrics with an assertive edge. “New York City” is the antithesis to the small-town angst of “Into the Night”, as Goss illustrates alienated city life with an alluring hint of impersonality.
“Hospital Shirt”, however, emerges most alluring of all. The guitar-led track whittles down to grassroots essentials, propelled only by gentle strums and bare vocals. Yet from this simplicity rises the album’s poignant climax. Goss leads a first-person narrative of a seriously ill young man in the hospital, capturing the stark reality of youth caught in limbo. The lyrics are vague, but each line is visceral, seamlessly streaming through bitter wisdom and naïve hope. And through the band closes out near the three minute mark, this is one of those songs that never truly ends. “Hospital Shirt” nestles deep into the soul, where it resonates long after the final lyric is sung.