Jason Ebbs’ Familiar Villains may not amaze instrumentally, but with a refreshing intimacy and candid nature, the album strives to be a conversation. Unapologetically anxious and isolated, Ebbs welcomes listeners to his party of one.

Familiar Villains — the Boston native’s debut album — is a classic alternative rock album for the socially isolated, party songs for people who don’t want to be there. On first listen, the album feels quite familiar and comfortable to the ear. Each song is polished, yes, but consists of bass lines similar to those found on Rex Orange County’s Apricot Princess (2017), and overall melodies that closely parallel other alternative rock bands, like Beach House or the UK indie group Spector.

Instead, it is the lyrics that truly set this EP apart from the typical summer release. Ebbs’ album is all about his desires to return home and run away from the crowd, as well as his anxieties associated with falling for someone. Juxtaposing lyrics like “I can’t go out / I wanna be by myself” and “The walls are my friends / I don’t need nobody else” are strong drum beats and a raspy voice — characteristics typically found in cramped and smokey basements.

The third song, “Brick Walls,” teems with angst and regret as Ebbs complains: “I play the part of the guy in the corner / whose waiting for someone to come;” “Just take away the whigs and the cigarettes / and everybody looks the same;” “I grow a pair and ask if she likes music / she grows an ego and decides to leave.” In each of these lyrics, Ebbs is clearly the observer at some neighbor’s house whose parents are out of town, and he does not like what he sees.

What is so compelling about these songs is their simplistic nature accompanied by Ebbs’ often existential, always internal, conflict. His crooning voice often rises and falls between building snares, while simultaneously the lyrics curve along their own path, explaining how “the streets began to wind up the hills of my mind” (from the song “First Trip to the Ocean”). The musicality itself may not be new, but combined with self-aware lyrics and a slight humor inherent in Ebbs’ writing, Familiar Villains becomes individualized among the influx of summer releases.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.