After major songs like “If The World Was Ending” and “Line by Line,” our favorite Canadian crooner JP Saxe has just released his debut album Dangerous Levels of Introspection. It’s a beautiful of work that shows Saxe at his most vulnerable, sharing his innermost thoughts through eloquent and poetic pop songs.
On the album, Saxe said in a press release: “It feels like you get to hear what I’m thinking. There’s no pretense or bullshit. I was as uncompromising as I could possibly be with this album to make sure I really meant everything I was saying about myself and my world.”
The album opens with the song that actually inspired the lyric that earned Saxe his first Grammy nomination (the actual “If the World Was Ending” features a bit later on the album). He was working on “4:30 in Toronto” when the lyric, “If the world was ending you’d come over right” popped up, but it never quite fit into the song. It’s a great track that sets the tone for the rest of the album, with the jazz-inspired piano pop and hard-hitting lyrics about reaching for comfort in familiarity — even when you know that familiarity is in the past. “It’s 4:30 in Toronto and I don’t know where to go, home don’t feel like home.” Somehow, Saxe is always spot on with capturing the complexity of such longing, as he does it again on “Dangerous Levels of Introspection.” Even when you know it’s not good to go down that path, sometimes you’ll feel “reckless nostalgia” for a moment in the past with someone else, even if you don’t want it back in the present.
It’s the unflinching honesty, even in the face of uncertainty, that Saxe has chosen to embrace instead. Especially when it comes to those complicated feelings you’re not quite sure of, all the murky gray areas of emotion that would scare others away, the things people usually have a hard time with admitting to themselves — those are all included in this album. It’s bold in an understated way, making the music all the more appealing and authentic.
“I’m uncomfortable, but lately I’ve been kinda into it / the way you wrap yourself around my body, I think I could live in it,” he confesses in “More of You,” a dreamy song about falling in love and not running away from the sudden need you feel to drown in somebody else.
The track is nicely offset by “Here’s Hopin,’” a song that’s about the exact opposite — falling out of love. Supported by John Mayer on guitar, he confesses that “Getting over / just feels like one last way that I’ve got left to lose you,” echoing the same theme as he croons about in “A Little Bit Yours.”
In “Tension,” Saxe is walking a tightrope in a toxic relationship, torn between the falling in love and falling out of love. The song’s one of the few bigger, more uptempo songs that fittingly also incorporates more tension and urgency. It’s also a big vocal from Saxe, who agonizes over what to do when you know you’re perhaps too forgiving, but not ready to walk out just yet. “You’re not the things you say, you’re not the things you do / These are the lies I tell myself to stay with you / Like sometimes tensions, brings us closer / I just wanna hold you when it’s over.”
The piano virtuoso shows off his skills once more in “What Keeps Me From It,” which seems to be somewhat of a goodbye song to “Tension.” Saxe takes his time to lament over the fact he should probably let go and find someone who’ll meet him halfway — in direct juxtaposition to the previous track.
And while Saxe has certainly proven on the album that he has absolutely no problem in focusing on his own flawed, but extremely human emotions, he doesn’t do so in “For Emilee.” The track feels a bit like the odd duck on an album focused on introspection and has a completely different feel to it sonically. It’s written as a piece of advice to someone else, or perhaps as a promise of true friendship. Because, what’s truer than telling someone you’ll be there for them, even if they fuck up, after all? Or making an effort to like someone’s partner, even when you actually despise them, as long as they make your friend happy? All bets are understandably off when that’s no longer the case.
The other “odd one out” in the collection of songs is the album closer. Not because of its perspective or sound, but because it’s not focused on romantic love. Rather, Saxe ends the album with an extremely heartfelt tribute to his late mother. “Sing Myself to Sleep” was the result of a collaboration with Mike Elizondo and Audra Mae, and it beautifully captures how hard it is to accept that life goes on when someone leaves it. “I’m OK, but that’s not the point / Take it day by day, like there’s any other choice,” he all but scoffs over acoustic instrumentation. Saxe succeeds in pointing out exactly what makes it so hard to lose a loved one, when he sings, “I didn’t always sing myself to sleep.” The song’s a reminder that he truly excels in emotional vulnerability through clever, poignant pop poetry.
Dangerous Levels of Introspection is incredibly sincere, melodic, and cathartic from beginning to end. Introspection may sound very personal — there is something very universal about it, too. Saxe gorgeously highlights how love and loss in whatever form are complex and hard to navigate. But somehow, by acknowledging how confusing and difficult it is, these songs can provide comfort and clarity nonetheless. One thing’s for sure after listening, we just want “more of you,” JP.