Mus 001: Introduction to struggling musicianship started as a way for Daniel “DJ” Joseph to release some frustration. Bothered by the fact that he rarely seemed to be able to finish the songs that he started, he took a break from indie-rock to develop something a little lighter.

The product was a 3-track EP, which he released under the moniker “Humans IRL” (IRL stands for “in real life”) and put up on Bandcamp with the labels “rock,” “sadtire,” and “jokesong.” The EP is catchy enough that it would be easy to tune out the words and get lost in the finger-snapping beat, but that would be a mistake. The lyrics blend satire and sincerity in a way that makes you stop and think.

The first track, “She gonna like me when I’m big,” is about that feeling you get when you’ve finally come up with the thing that’s going to get you the girl (or guy, or dad’s approval, or whatever). The yearning for recognition is real, with just enough cockiness to balance it out. In “Laptop, Laptop,” Joseph takes a stand against solitary electronic music creation: “This form of living it will alienate.” IRL, Joseph takes this even farther. With a belief in the power of music to do more than just entertain, he has endeavored through various projects to broaden the accessibility of public music making. “Unconvenshinl thawts” is a stream of consciousness about what it means to pay the price of fitting in, ultimately coming to the conclusion that normal is pretty hard to define. The beat follows the theme of the lyrics, throwing off its conventionality by evolving into a funky rumba near the end of the track. It brings to mind a salsa flash mob, or a cookie cutter businessman who decides that he’s going to go to work naked one day. Whatever image it brings up for you, chances are it’s fun and just a little weird.

 

The Humans IRL bio almost makes the inception of the EP sound casual (“I was taking a necessary creative dump,” says Joseph). Although it may be unconventional, it’s anything but unprofessional. Joseph’s voice charms from the beginning, with seductive rock undertones amped up by funk vibes and soul. The backup vocals pop in at the sweet spots (perfectly placed “oohs,” “aahs,” and “yeahs”) and the musicianship is skillful without being over the top. If there were anything that he could have done better, it would have been to be even bolder with the lyrics. Some of the songs (particularly “Unconvenshinl thawts”) have repetition in places where Joseph could have used the space to expand more upon his ideas.

Humans IRL is nestled under the creative umbrella of Odd Gift Records, a network of musicians and friends based in Brooklyn and Boston. The collaborative nature of the group is apparent from the credits on their work; on Mus 001: Introduction to struggling musicianship, Joseph is supported by his brother Kyle Joseph on bass and Nick Pope on drums and backup vocals, both of whom are also Odd Gift Records members.

Ultimately, Mus 001: Introduction to Struggling Musicianship is a keen assessment of human and societal tendencies, encapsulated in catchy melodies. It’s good to know that Joseph is walking the walk as well as singing the songs; his most recent project is to build an interactive public sound sculpture that serves as a forum for spontaneous music creation, much as a basketball court serves as a vehicle for play. With the support of a grant from the Eaux Claires Music Festival, Joseph and a small team will be creating and debuting this sculpture there on August 12th, 2016.

Is this one gonna make DJ Joseph big? It’s hard to say, but he’s got a few good things going for him. For now, he’s got our vote, and we’re happy to dance his unconventional dance.

Album Review: Humans IRL - Mus 001: Introduction to Struggling Musicianship
Pros
  • Pleasing to the ear
  • Funny
  • Thoughtful
Cons
  • Lyrical space could have been better used in some songs
8.5Weird and good
Reader Rating: (4 Votes)
10.0

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