Indie Music

Jo Yonderly – Heart

Jo Yonderly

‘The worst part of having a mental illness,’ reads the tremulous writing on Jo Yonderly’s t-shirt, ‘is people expect you to behave as if you DON’T.’ The o of don’t contains a crooked-mouthed smiley face. The apostrophe is missing. In his artfully-sunlit promotional photo, Yondlerly sits with legs akimbo on a small white stool. Several leafy plants and a cactus adorn the windowsill behind him, alongside what looks like an old school photo. Did the boy in the frame become the man in the Lennon Glasses and Mum Jeans that sits before us? And more to the point, how did this top-knotted beardy with two (yes, two) ukuleles produce a track as gut-pounding as his new single, Heart?

Heart opens with a drunken right hook of a bassline, and a voice squashed and stretched to hideous and uncanny proportions. It’s odd to hear such a high-pitched, almost childlike squeak in this context, but Yonderly’s frail warble turns out to be the perfect sparring partner for the menacing instrumentation. The flashes of lead guitar speak to an adolescence spent doodling the Queens of The Stone Age logo onto the backs of exercise books, and the effect is thrilling. When the chorus unleashes the full force of Yonderly’s voice, it hits like a half-empty pint glass to the jaw.

The adjective for which Heart stretches most earnestly is thunderous, but minor production issues keep it just out of arm’s reach. The song’s fuzzed-out chaos leaves little room for the drums, which too often are pushed into the background and left shorn of weight and impact. This is especially noticeable on the bridge, which dissolves into ambient noise and briefly threatens to take the rest of the song with it. The drums themselves are tight and abrasive, but the snares lack the gunshot urgency needed to truly carry the song.

Despite this minor imbalance, the song’s full-frontal assault remains almost indecently compelling. With a runtime of 2 minutes and 24 seconds, Heart isn’t here for long time, and the anguish with which Yonderly howls the final chorus indicates that he’s not here for a good time either. Rarely has Spotify’s repeat forever function been more irresistible.

Christopher R. Moore

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