Essential New Music: Freedy Johnston’s “Neon Repairman”

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Freedy Johnston has a keen eye for the small details that illuminate the shadows that haunt life’s darker corners. His mellow tenor has a careworn quality that seems balanced between wistful grief and graceful resignation, although his fluid melodies and ironic lyrics always bring a touch of light to the darkness—this always keeps things from getting too grim.

His method shines on “The First To Leave The World, Is The First To See The World,” the reflections of a Russian cosmonaut who looks down on the planet from his space capsule to feel the blossoming of a deep connection to all life at the same time he’s becoming aware of the distance between himself and everything else in creation. The woman on “Summer Clothes” and the worker profiled on the title track join the cosmonaut in the precarious dance between connection and alienation that Johnston is so good at describing.

—j. poet