It’s hard to believe that “Beautiful Strangers” is The John Whites’ eighth full-length album. Its uninhibited, freewheeling nature feels much more like a great first album — akin to something like Led Zeppelin’s debut or Jay Z’s “Reasonable Doubt.” From beginning to end, the energy and complete dedication to the songs feel anything but contrived or hackneyed.
John White’s voice even has a timbre not present on his previous outings. He sounds hungry for more; more of music, love, and life in general. This relentless theme of desire and the tasteful rock and roll musicianship are instrumental in making “Beautiful Strangers” immediately classic sounding.
The album’s general cohesion and pacing make it sound as if the songs surely had been written in one unbridled spurt of creativity, but White is quick to dispel that notion.
“I’ve had most of the music written for eight years,” White said, “it just took me so long with the lyrics because I wanted each song to mean something.”
Even a cursory listen through the album illustrates that White accomplished his goal. Each song’s lyrical content helps piece together a loose storyline that represents the chapters of a relationship from first noticing someone in “All I Want” to sex in “Holy Note” to the inevitable feelings of ill will in “Selfish Selfish Little Child” and finally back to a hopeful ending with the album’s excellent closer “Back In Love.”
However, this isn’t the soundtrack for some romantic-comedy coming to a theater near you. “Beautiful Strangers” is genuine, raw, and has no problem delving into some of the darker corners of heartbreak.
“There’s a song called ‘Molly’ that’s just about getting fucked up to avoid dealing with stuff.” White added that he was very careful to not let the story get “bogged down by narrative” and instead just examine “different phases of relationships.”
“Molly” as well as the single “When The Leaves Were Changing” are two highlights in an entire album of great concise songwriting.
“This is, by far, the most streamlined album,” White said about the songwriting and arranging that went into the release; the songs flow marvelously.
The other two parts of The John Whites, bassist Alex Korostinsky and drummer Aaron Chiazza, do more than bolster the songwriting with their restrained playing. As heard earlier this year on Whatitdo.’s “Shit’s Dope” the duo can play difficult, syncopated math-funk with ease but with this release their chief goal was serving the songs, offering exactly what each mood, chord, and lyric called for.
“This is the most restrained playing I’ve ever done,” Korostinksy said, “but Aaron and I still tried to craft distinct grooves for all the songs.”
And therein lies possibly the biggest key to this album’s instant love-ability: balance. It is cohesive without being repetitive, musically impressive without showcasing every musician’s chops, and conceptual without beating the listener over the head with a plot. White’s considerable talent as a songwriter and musician shine through every second of this album and his patience to produce this over time have allowed him to put forth something freshly intriguing. “Beautiful Strangers” is, simply put, beautiful.