As a full-fledged Renaissance man Johnson has paintings for sale, tours with Conor Oberst and M. Ward under his belt and a decade-plus solo career, still unfolding. During this acoustic set at the KDHX studios, he played some of his own songs, as well as a few Centro-matic numbers off the new release, Candidate Waltz. It's the band's most artfully executed album yet: the bigger, brighter sounds are offset by storytelling lyrics.
"Shadow, Follow Me" is a beautiful folk song well-suited to Will's thick baritone. This meandering tune draws parallels between twilight's lengthening shadows and the twilight of life that awaits us all: "There's a comfort in the time that you're given, a comfort I can't see."
Next up is "Iso Residue," which should be poised to become one of the major hits off Candidate Waltz. The contrast between Johnson's stripped-down version and the band's is striking. Centro-matic's "Iso Residue" is rollicking and abandoned in its heartbreak, while Will's acoustic reading underscores the longing and loneliness -- that feeling of drinking alone, again, in the dark.
In contrast, the thoughtful wordplay of "Argonne Limit Co." tells the story of Rust Belt desolation and "radioactive overflow" in a place where "only the absentees bothered to show." Finally, the drowsily strummed "Little Raider" rounds out a set that showcases Johnson's capacity for slow but sure personal songwriting.