MAGNET Exclusive: Premiere Of PJ Western’s “Can’t Relax”

If Harry Nilsson had a long, lost grandson currently making his way in the music business, he might sound a little like PJ Western. Set for release on August 11, Here I Go (New West) is essentially indefinable—often brazenly so. It’s angular pop. It’s psychedelic rock. It’s campy. It’s nostalgic. It’s bold. It’s sometimes self-conscious, occasionally awkward and certainly never boring.

Raised on a loose leash by free-spirited parents, PJ Western’s Joshua Epstein cofounded tongue-in-cheek indie-pop outfit Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. with Daniel Zott in 2009. The Detroit-based duo eventually changed their name to JR JR to distance themselves from the NASCAR legend who inspired it, though they did have Earnhardt Jr.’s blessing. Western has since kicked off his solo career with another name change and a move to the West Coast.

Here I Go
was produced and recorded by Gus Seyffert (Beck, Michael Kiwanuka) at Sargent Recorders in Los Angeles, Western’s adopted hometown. The supporting cast includes keyboardist Doug Organ (Antibalas), multi-instrumentalist Jake Blanton (Ghosty, Beck), drummer Josh Miner Adams (Fruit Bats) and brass ace Stewart Cole (Edward Sharpe And The Magnetic Zeroes), along with celebrated Syrian-American singer/songwriter Azniv Korkejian (a.k.a. Bedouine) on backing vocals. And while the album is stacked with L.A. talent, Western mostly comes at the city with an outsider’s skepticism and disbelief.

“What keeps you awake at night as you lie in bed hoping for the respite of sleep? Maybe it’s the looking sideways that we do—the social-media post that triggered us,” says Western, offering a somewhat opened-ended assessment of the album’s fourth track, “Can’t Relax.” “We yearn to master the art of self-care here at the basecamp of late-stage capitalism. ‘Just relax,’ they say. But I can’t.”

Neither can we. MAGNET is proud to premiere “Can’t Relax,” which pretty much sums up the whole album’s jittery goodness.

—Hobart Rowland