By Eric Thom
Osborne and company acknowledge the chaos all around us while providing us with a means of navigating it – reminding us that we’re not alone.
1. Rock On
2. Mermaid Vampire
3. Mt. Caroline
5. My Entire Life
6. Optimum Artist
8. Hyperbolic Jesus
9. Double Stripe
11. Tragic Kingdom
12. Break Free, Rolling Stone
If you’re unfamiliar with the musical career of Justin Osborne – aka SUSTO – prepare yourself for an epiphany with the release of their fifth full-length album.
Perhaps a premature title – with lots of life left to live – this highly literate songwriter has profiled a life lived over a variety of topics common to us all, inviting us along for the ride. In his own words, “I’m kind of a confessional, autobiographical-type writer…so every album kind of feels like a portrait of a moment in time”.
Where his last release attempted to offset the dark of his father’s death with the light of the arrival of his firstborn child, My Entire Life continues Osborne’s form as an emotional diarist.
This time out, divorce, family struggles with drug addiction and mental illness, loss from accidental death and suicide are leavened by new love, an ever-evolving skill set and a renewed perspective; Osborne’s insightful lyrics documenting each experience as if to take them captive.
SUSTO is also an amalgam of talented musicians bound by an unerring ability to switch gears and apply a wide range of musical backdrops to tastefully showcase each of Osborne’s explorations. Impossible to pigeonhole, this record – like the last – applies sounds recalling ‘80s and ‘90s rock, elements of folk and psychedelia.
SUSTO co-founders, Johnny Delaware and Marshall Hudson, join long-time producer and player Wolfgang Zimmerman across key instruments, while each track is lovingly complemented by additional artists where needed.
The centrepiece is the title track – an epic and loving tribute to the loss of a close friend, “Toucan”. Bright colours and the sensation of flying brew from a pounding beat for a positively soaring and heartfelt eulogy.
The breathtaking ‘Mt. Caroline’ applies intricate guitar work and upbeat pop rhythms which build in intensity, as Osborne chronicles the act of falling in love. The song could last forever and not be quite long enough.
The feel-good, other-worldly ‘Optimum Artist’ floats in a dream state, approximating a timeless jam of a groove born of acoustic guitar, brushed snare, flute/synths, lush background vocals and, to great effect, Osborne’s infectious upper register. Coping with hardship and the fragility of life, the ebullient chorus of ‘Cowboys’, alone, offers instant salvation.
Each song is exceptional. No song is alike. The lyrics are never obscured and the accompanying music fits better than a well-worn glove.
The name ‘SUSTO’ is derived from a Latin American term roughly translated as ‘panic attack’. Osborne and company acknowledge the chaos all around us while providing us with a means of navigating it – reminding us that we’re not alone.
8.5 / 10
SUSTO's 2023 album, My Entire Life, is released July 28th via New West Records.
For more on SUSTO, see below: