Bright-eyed indie-pop newcomer, Couvo (aka Josh Couvares), pits romanticism against realism, while retroactively summing up the well-to-do playpen that is Bushwick. Still, Couvares is determined to age gracefully in an increasingly crestfallen era of draconian politics and disenchantment on his upcoming release, When This All Ends (out April 24), mixed by Charlie Stavish (Jenny Lewis, Interpol, Weezer) and mastered by Robin Schmidt (The 1975, The Japanese House, Ben Howard).
When This All Ends is a coming of age tale for Couvares, who plans to keep exuberance intact but yearns to jettison reckless abandon and feckless joy, now a 26-year-old working-class citizen; and while he may not be The Only Living Boy in New York, he’s not impervious to loneliness. Swallowing the dregs that remain of youthful naiveté, the unassuming crooner yields wistful, spirited coos akin to Ezra Koenig and Morning Benders era Chris Chu. Through character-driven exploits of the heart and semi-autobiographical accounts, Couvo’s lyrics take precedence, though his big-hearted choruses on songs like “Still Hanging On” and “Gloria Steinem” remain unaffected, and equally poignant.
On “Still Hanging On,” Couvares manages to wax humor alongside poetry, by capturing an awestruck revelation - the field noise of a would-be laureate outside of Roberta’s Pizza & Bakery on Moore Street, who exclaims, “Wait, wait, wait - but also - we can do takeaway,” as if struck by a bolt of lightning. Although Brooklyn is quite the bitter pill at times, Couvares invites all of his high school friends from Manchester, CT inside the studio to wrangle warmth and nostalgia on the chorus of “Still Hanging On”; the first half of the track presents minimal instrumentation, with cajón, a charming piano cadence, acoustic and electric guitar balladry and soothing vocals, only to give rise to a bigger and jazzier arrangement, replete with a Clarence-esque sax solo, a full drum kit, and the aforementioned chorus of dear friends.
“To all my friends that I grew up with, who I don’t see anymore/To all those nights when we had no idea what it was that we were living for/You know those days are over/We’re all just getting older/And I know those years are gone/My dreams, they’ve been a little bent and bruised/But they’re still hangin’ on.”
“Gloria Steinem” sedates the listener with sizzling auxiliary percussion, ethereal guitar swells, rapturous saxophone, and another big chorus that presupposes the taxing journey and romantic interest of a rich girl who exhibits a duality in the spirit of Roxanne Gay’s Bad Feminist: on one hand, she’s “coked out of her mind/Lower East Side all the time,” and on the other, the narrator reveals, “She had this little letter that she wrote when she was seven/To the person she’d become/How she would be a doctor, and a lawyer and a mother, and the president all at once,” illuminating (quite literally) the ridiculous laundry list of gratuitous expectations society places on women, and the letter is - in turn - upended by a zippo lighter. Meanwhile, the narrator explains, “All she ever wanted was to be Gloria Steinem/ But the gig was already booked.” It’s the story of a rich girl and a poor boy, talking in circles as they try to relate to one another, and all the while, not being ready for any burdensome chapters that come with being an adult in real-time. Then again, who is?
“Goon Squad,” which Couvares describes as “the heart of the record,” continues the boy-meets-world-and-falls-in-love-with-a-girl, drunk-on-a-Summer-day-in-Brooklyn narrative, with just a dash of spite at the behest of blame, as the unreliable narrator is called out on truths that, perhaps hit too close to home; Couvares also begs the question, how does anyone truly know what’s best for their significant other, as we try, earnestly, not to burst any bubbles, in the name of love? “And if I’m another boy like the rest/You’re a question mark in a Summer dress,” Couvares declares.
“The older I get, the harder it is to feel anything,” says Couvares, and as we all know, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Skylarking aside - and when we strip all the trivial pursuits of escapism away from our lives - it’s hard to proclaim what one should focus on when they pore over both socioeconomic status, and even harder to occasionally enjoy one’s adulthood in the ghost of their youth, without first considering what’s left behind, when this all ends.