In New York for a few days. Heading back home today. Which is a shame because if I could manage one more night I’d be heading to the record release party for John Henry Olthoff’s new album, “Selfish Portraits,” at the Waltz Astoria (Saturday, Sept. 17). This is the third release from the Queens-based Olthoff, following “Living With Me” earlier this year and the 2009 ep “Same Old Sun.”
The songs on “Selfish Portraits” are both self-reflective and self-deprecating. Olthoff’s broken, lonesome voice turns the streets of Queens sun caked and dusty, a tough working class world of heartache and tough times, as well as surprising love, and joy in life’s simple pleasures. As the album title implies, Olthoff’s tongue is often more or less in cheek, pushing some songs closer to tragicomedy, other times taking the bite off a particularly harsh reality. Less dark humor than humor to make the dark less so. In songs like “It Hurt,” the gentlest touches of humor make the regretful tone more poignant. “Anymore” is comedic but the core is hollow and harrowing. “Weekend In Jail” carries the sad premise to a satisfying absurdity. Most of the tracks are appropriately languid but things crank up with full band for danceable rockers like “Can Your God Do That?” and “No Other Kind.”
For few tears and a warm chuckle, definitely pick this up. And if you go to the show, send a note so I regret more my early departure.
Hard to Know