Achingly intimate and stunningly soulful, Joesef’s debut album ‘Permanent Damage’ is the bounciest breakup record you’ve heard in years.
for fans of Harry Styles, Honne, Rina Sawayama, Troye Sivan
Stream: “Joe” – Joesef
Who knew brooding could sound so beautiful?
Achingly intimate and stunningly soulful, Joesef’s debut album Permanent Damage is the bounciest breakup record you’ve heard in years: A gorgeous inner reckoning full of soul-searching lyrics set to soaring melodies and smoldering grooves. It’s as vulnerable and visceral as it is vibrant; in sharing his rawest self and diving into his darkest, deepest depths, Joesef hits the highest of highs with an alluring, all-too relatable mix of pain and passion.
How much of myself can I give away
‘Til there’s nothing left to take from me?
Feels like I’m losing things I can’t replace
It’s an emptiness that makes me weak
‘Cause I built you up
You just break me down
When I’m alone I can hear the sound
I just can’t stand the way
you said my name
I can hear you say it
Joe, Joe, Joe
Don’t you ever leave
I can hear you say it
Joe, Joe, Joe
‘Cause you’re nothing without me
– “Joe,” Joesef
Released January 13, 2023 via AWAL, Permanent Damage is a grand and sweeping, colorful and cathartic expression from Joesef’s innermost self – not to mention an unforgettable, instantly memorable introduction to one of Britain’s fastest-rising artists. The Scottish singer/songwriter has made a quick name for himself through his soul-soaked pop music these past few years, drawing favorable comparisons to Harry Styles, Troye Sivan, and Years & Years while simultaneously standing out as a singular force to be reckoned with.
Since his nomination for BBC’s Sound of 2020 poll, Joesef has come into his own through a series of singles and EPs that showcase his range, depth, and storytelling prowess. Nowhere does his light shine brighter now than on Permanent Damage, a triumphant thirteen-track record that highlights his stylistic and sonic range as an artist, his pure talents as a vocalist and producer, and his prowess as a songwriter and arranger, and more. Story-wise this album is one of both turmoil and triumph, opening with the breakup’s breakdown and subsequently taking us through the artist’s grieving and healing process.
If you can take the fall, how high do you wanna be? We don’t need to have it all; that doesn’t matter to me…
– “East End Coast,” Joesef
“It’s primarily about the breakdown of a relationship I was in, from beginning to end I try to make sense of it in how it’s changed me and how I feel about it still,” Joesef tells Atwood Magazine. “I wanted it to feel cohesive, like a continuous body of work that felt like it had a strong thread running through it, thematically and sonically. Visually, I wanted it to feel quite dark, all deep reds and burnt orange, with the videos having a Wong Kar-wai/Trainspotting tone.”
“I’ve always found it quite difficult to find peace in myself,” he confides. “Always moving, always thinking, always dreaming, always searching. Until I started making music it was the more destructive aspects of my personality that took over in order to cope with an ever-changing landscape of feeling I couldn’t maintain control of. Permanent Damage is about fighting in the street on the way home, kissing in the taxi, having nothing to say in the morning; holding grief in your hands and carrying it with you indefinitely. There is a permanence in what we went through together and it’s affected the way I carry myself and the way I see the world. It’s about grieving for a version of myself that I don’t think I’ll ever be able to get back.”
You should hear it
The quiet sound of knowing there is nothing left to say
All the feeling
That takes me back to somewhere I don’t want to be again
But you know everything that’s on my mind
But knowing everything don’t make it right
But you can, close your eyes
till the darkness underneath us starts to fade
But I will take my time
Till the damage seeps in just enough to change
– “Permanent Damage,” Joesef
Joesef held nothing back in pouring his full self into these songs, and in the spirit of “you get what you give,” his efforts paid off tenfold: Permanent Damage shines brightest as a result of the artist’s uncompromising and unapologetic depths. “It’s the best foot forward I’ve taken,” he says. “I started in my bedroom, and I’ve been only trying to better myself again and again while keeping my integrity and trying to evolve as an artist and producer. It’s sort of a mix of all the styles and songs I’ve loved since I was a kid, I guess when you make a debut album you’re emulating everything you’ve been exposed to up until that point. Hopefully people feel it’s cohesive and honest at least.”
The album title is a direct nod to the experiences outlined within. “It sums up the themes of the album for me, how this relationship changed everything about me, from how I carry myself to how I look at the world. There’s a permanence to what we went through together, and the title of the record felt pretty apt.”
smoking green and doing blow
we broke into the stately home
but i wish you would take me home
but you’re breaking
like you’ve been broken before
made the best of what’s left
of our house by the east end coast
you can take it
till you can’t take anymore
don’t forget all the mess
all the boys that have come before
we don’t need to have it all
that doesn’t matter to me
i’ll pick up when you call
i’ll leave when you wanna leave
if you can take the fall
how high do you wanna be
we don’t need to have it all
that doesn’t matter to me
Even before the album was released as a whole, its five singles painted a provocative picture. “It’s Been a Little Heavy Lately,” “East End Coast,” “Joe,” “Just Come Home with Me Tonight,” and “Borderline” are all evocative delights – each one a world unto itself, burning with passion and poignant lyricism, smoldering vocals and soulful melodies. An upbeat anthem dwelling in what one might call life’s darkest depths, Joesef’s self-titled “Joe” is turbulent, bouncy, and utterly enthralling: “How much of myself can I give away, ‘til there’s nothing left to take from me?” he sings in the moody, hushed first verse, dwelling in a space of loneliness and emotional disconnect. “Feels like I’m losing things I can’t replace; it’s an emptiness that makes me weak.” Steadily he rises until he explodes in a radiant chorus full of warmth and charged energy: “I can hear you saying, ‘Joe, Joe, Joe don’t you ever leave. Joe, Joe, Joe, ’cause you’re nothing without me.’” No sooner is he chanting his own name, than we’re right there singing alongside him.
This is just one-thirteenth of the magic housed within Permanent Damage‘s 45-minute run. “I love ‘Just Come Home With Me Tonight’ just because it makes me feel the same way I did when I first wrote it every time I sing it,” Joesef says on the topic of favorite moments on the album. “I love the textures of the production and how close the vocal feels, too.” As far as favorite lyrics are concerned, he highlights a line from the bustling penultimate track, “Last Orders”: I planted flowers with the promises I made in my head, they didn’t live long in your forest fire, that’s what you’ve got left.
“Just Come Home With Me Tonight” is without a doubt one of Permanent Damage‘s standout moments, with a seductive groove, glistening, effected instruments, and heated vocals capturing a snapshot of urgency, intimate connection, and raw, untethered desire:
Pieces of my soul
Are burning in my throat
He’s lighting up your phone
You’re here but you’re already gone
Still I’m drunk enough to play the game
I lean in and you move away
I still love you all the same
That’s why I can’t help my self but say
but I know a kiss won’t make it right
And there’s no future left in sight
But I got no false hope in my mind
But would you just come home with me tonight
“I wrote this song before I even knew I was going to make an album,” Joesef explains of ‘Just Come Home With Me Tonight.’ “It’s about meeting my ex at a party and realising they’d moved on. The change between us was so palpable, and that little light in his eyes that he carried for me wasn’t there anymore. The song uses the demo vocal take I recorded in my bedroom in Glasgow. We tried recreating it, but there’s sometimes an inimitable magic within a demo that can’t be touched. It’s strange hearing my voice back in this way, not being in that headspace anymore. I wish I could tell that version of myself that I’ll be alright soon.”
Highlights are aplenty on this enchanting collection that hits hard and leaves a lasting mark.
Joesef delivers an emotionally potent, finely balanced mix of tender ballads and high-flying anthems, confessionals and upheavals, big pop productions and softer, stripped-down performances. From the heavy-hearted “East End Coast” and the lush, cinematic soul ballad “Apt 22,” to the rawer upheaval “Shower,” the impassioned fever dream “Moment,” and the buoyant, feel-good finale “All Good,” Permanent Damage ensures all audience members come away entrenched and in love with Joesef’s smoldering, soul-laced sound.
In other words, Permanent Damage does its own form of permanent damage on the ears, mind, and heart.
“I hope people feel a bit less alone in whatever it is they are going through at least,” Joesef shares. “Music’s always taken me away whenever I’ve wanted to escape, I hope this record can do that for anyone who needs it. I’ve learned a lot about letting things go through this album, and I’ve gotten a lot of closure as a result. I found it really difficult making it for one, and then giving it away. It was really f***ing hard to make, but I’m proud of how it’s done and hopefully what it’s yet to do.”
Experience the full record via our below stream, and peek inside Joesef’s Permanent Damage with Atwood Magazine as he goes track-by-track through the music and lyrics of his debut album!
Stream: ‘Permanent Damage’ – Joesef
:: Inside Permanent Damage ::
This is sort of like the overture for the record, the introduction to the story that’s about to follow. I wanted the record to feel like it’s picking you up, holding you close then letting you go at the end. this is the beginning of that.
It’s Been a Little Heavy Lately
One of the first songs i’d written for the album, it was the first time i’d allowed myself to be experimental with the production, which then opened a lot of doors sonically for the rest of the album. it’s quite literal lyrically, but it’s about how your moral compass sometimes waivers when you’re depressed or your defenses are down.
East End Coast
I’d written this as a sort of knee-jerk reaction to the isolation and loneliness I felt when I moved away from my hometown. it tells the story of this tempestuous relationship I was in that was falling apart but I was clinging on to it desperately, trying to hold on to some kind of familiarity at the time, it’s became an ode to the place I grew up, in Glasgow and the times spent there.
Just Come Home with Me Tonight
This was inadvertently the first song I had for the album, I kept it because I had this feeling about it, one I still feel today. it’s about meeting my ex at a party and realising they had moved on. it’s about wanting one last night together regardless of present circumstances.
Probably the most difficult song to handle, as well as the quietest on the record. it’s a song that helped solidify the idea of permanent damage as the title, I’d met someone new and it felt like a safe, consistent type of love that I wasn’t used to. it made me realise how much I’d been affected by my previous relationship in a negative way. I still struggle to sing this one even now.
Didn’t Know How (to Love You)
At this point in the album it feels like a shift, from being on my hands and knees to being able to stand freely again. Production wise it was a case of having as much fun as possible, we wanted everything to feel really alive and full of energy. It’s a bit of a “fuck you” song.
Sonically this song is something I’ve always wanted to make, I’d have a lot of really old school references, and this song has some of those vintage textures that I love. Guy Garvey actually does backing vocals on this track randomly, we got to know each other working in the same studio and we got him in at the last minute, it was a dream to hear his voice like that.
This song is about the really quiet moments in the after math of a break up, like sitting on the edge of your bed in silence, or having a shower alone. when the dust settles a lot of the most devastating things catch you when you’re least expecting it, this song is about trying to make sense of someones absence.
This song started just on the guitar, but we built it to be this euphoric, driving, forward moving song. it’s about having a difficult relationship with yourself, and how exhausting it can be. I love playing this song live, it’s strange to write a song alone, to sharing it and singing it together with thousands of people.
I realised a lot of my last relationship revolved around alcohol and substance abuse, and that would subsidize a lot of the short comings between us. I wanted the production to feel like it was swirling around us, almost falling apart throughout until it completely erupts at the end.
I think we’d been listening to a lot of indie bands making this tune, like The Radio Dept. and Beach Fossils. I wanted to tell the story of a desire for a fleeting moment of how it used to be together, before it got bad. This song lived a few lives before it became what you hear on the album. Definitely something I can’t wait to do live.
This song is about emotionally checking out of a relationship in the context of leaving them waiting for you at the bar you used to always go to with them. I think over time you change irreparably, and that’s something I felt towards the end. even if I wanted to make it work I couldn’t because we were completely different people.
This is sort of like the musical epilogue to the whole record. I think I needed it for myself. It’s the idea that nothing’s ever easy, but it’s always going to be okay in the end. No matter how devastating something may seem, it’s always possible to make it through, and be better for it.
— — — —
📸 © Nathan Dunphy