Oso Oso’s one-man-show Jade Lilitri is singing about himself this time around.
His 2017 record “The Yunahon Mixtape” was entirely self-recorded and self-released, eventually finding a Bandcamp audience and a record label. He signed to Triple Crown last year — one of the best indie punk labels in the business — and with new confidence and resources at his disposal, Lilitri made one of the most re-listenable indie rock records of 2019 with “Basking in the Glow.”
“Yunahon” featured several characters and a continuing narrative threaded through each song on the tracklist. He created a fictional town and the record acted as a message in a bottle for those who loved and lost and sought salvation there. But on “Glow,” Lilitri sheds the third person to put himself — or some version of himself — in full focus.
Lilitri is looking for a way out while he lays bare subtle messages about addiction, existential crises, faith and intimacy. But he knows to do this while crafting each hook to be more infectious than the last.
You’ll be just as seduced by the title track’s cheery major chords and Lilitri's friendly, nasal vocals as he is by whatever he’s sipping out of his cup.
“The View” plays a similar game, with a bouncy rhythm and a familiar chord progression that just sucks you into thinking he’s got it all sorted out.
“My eyes lit up when I saw it / The view from where you sit,” sounds like a nice line about a girl or an ideal he’s trying to achieve, but underneath is an anthem about self-destruction and “microscopic strides” that add up to relapse and repents.
Oso Oso fuses Blink-182-era mall rock hooks with double-tracked vocals that call back to Elliott Smith, plus a type of poppy indie punk that feels all Lilitri’s own — or maybe he’s just the best at it right now.
“Wake Up Next to God” is the punchiest track here, and he even pulls off rhyming “cynical” with “subliminal” with power chords churning to try to lift him to salvation.
And Lilitri has a few tricks in his bag, adding some country flavor with a southern effect on “Impossible Game” and an interesting production choice on “One Sick Plan,” which sounds like the original tape got run over by a car in a rainstorm and Lilitri was determined to put the pieces back together.
In fact, he’s always trying to put the pieces back together, and he’s not always sure he likes his own fractured picture. As he says in “Dig,” “There’s a hole in my soul / How far do you wanna go?”
Asking someone to join him in the way he sees himself is at best a half-hearted plea for friendship, or read more cynically, a sarcastic reply to someone’s kindness. If he can’t help himself, then why should anyone else?
The songs sound so full of warmth and life, because they have to. Lilitri needs to attract someone through this positive exterior, so that he may have the chance to tell them what’s really going on. Every big chorus that begs a crowd to sing along is his own version of establishing that first level of engagement.
He doesn’t have himself all figured out, and he’s falling back into old habits, but he knows the way out is outside of himself. And so he ends with “Charlie,” a girl who’s quiet, but will “open up your mind to a whole new world.” The song itself has the biggest crescendos and self-harmonized “ahhs” to build something bigger than himself.
To find himself, and grow past his bad patterns, he has to try to understand someone else. He accepts her “mess” in the same way that he wishes he could accept his own. And the kicker is that she’s already gone.
"Music Mondays" is a weekly column run in conjunction with the University of Richmond radio, WDCE.
Contact contributor Conner Evans at email@example.com. Evans is the music director for WDCE.