J. Robbins "Un-Becoming" [USED] LP


The album affirms what we already knew about Robbins from Jawbox and later projects like Burning Airlines: He’s one of the rock underground’s most skillful, economical songwriters. “Abandoned Mansions,” an album highlight that first surfaced in more stripped-down form on a 2014 EP, only needs about 30 seconds to sell itself as a readymade anthem, marrying a stomping drum beat — pounded out by Robbins’ longtime collaborator Peter Moffett, who played with the singer in both Burning Airlines and earlier band Government Issue — to Robbins’ urgent yet ultra-hooky vocal delivery and lyrics detailing urban decay in his current home of Baltimore. The tune’s crunchy half-time bridge, featuring the insistent cello of Gordon Withers and lyrics borrowed from Poe, adds contrast, but mostly this is a lean, two-and-a-half–minute fist-pumper without a wasted second. (Tip for Jawbox fans: If you dig Un-Becoming, also check out Foxhall Stacks, a driving melodic-rock band featuring the band’s other singer-guitarist, Bill Barbot, with Moffett again on drums.)