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New Music: B.A. Johnston

By Sean Willett, March 19 2015 —

B.A. Johnston is often seen as a gag musician, and it’s easy to see why. With an album title like Shit Sucks — which features cover art of Johnston chained up à la Princess Leia in front of Jabba the Hutt — and songs about how much he hates his shitty cat, it can be hard to take this folk singer from Hamilton seriously.

But between jokey, nonsensical songs like “IKEA Hotdog” and “Bat in the House,” there are tracks that touch on problems familiar to aimless Canadian 20-somethings.

“Gonna End Up Working in Fort McMurray” is a ballad about a despondent maritimer considering leaving his home for a job in the Albertan oil sands. Similarly, “Nuke Toronto” is about those who leave their small-town life for the big city, only to find that city living isn’t quite what they wanted it to be.

There are a couple of surprisingly earnest love songs thrown into the mix. “Dump Bear” tugs at the heartstrings despite its unflattering title and “I Want To Love You But I Am Too Stupid” tells a relatable story while working in an extended reference to Duck Hunt.

A friend of mine once jokingly called Johnston “the voice of our generation,” and I’m not sure that’s entirely wrong. Johnston manages to capture the feeling of frustration and hopelessness that comes with being an unemployed millennial with no clear plans for the future.He sings about the problems that plague those attempting to strike out on their own, despite having no clue how to be an actual adult. Even his dumber songs can be strangely poetic, touching on the universal minutiae of modern life in a way that can be as reaffirming as it is funny.

But enough of that pretentious crap. All you need to know is that Shit Sucks is a great album from start to finish — even if you are just in it for the novelty of hearing a song called “BK Has a New King,” about various Star Wars characters visiting a Burger King.



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