- Glittering synth pop on the Canadian artist's second album.
- Jered Stuffco calls his new album a "midlife crisis with drum machines," recorded while he awaited his first child and his 40th birthday. The Canadian artist's music has always had one foot in the past—his breakthrough album Ravines saw him reconstructing Italo disco, Minneapolis funk and early house music—but Net Worth dives headfirst into childhood nostalgia. Stuffco says that, after deleting social media to focus on the record, only his favourite records by the likes of Depeche Mode and New Order could give him the "dopamine hits" he craved. As a result, Net Worth is something of a transformation, or at least a trip back in time, moving from soulful funk to '80s new wave and post-punk, with all of the dazzling musicianship of his past records.
From the surging, anxious opener "What Am I Gonna Do?" onward, this is angular pop that tunnels for darker places beneath Stuffco's usual happy-go-lucky mood. You'll also notice that the music now revolves around his voice, a move he added to his repertoire with recent tracks like "Human Nature" and "Desolation." Where before he would let his guitar or a synth horn play out the central melody, his instrumental runs are relegated to background flourishes and breaks, where they become even more sumptuous.
These songs deal with classic themes—relationships, insecurities—with simple lyrics that favour clarity and musicality over cleverness. Even in this regard Stuffco is holding true to his forbears, with lilting rhymes and words that non-native English speakers could understand. He's not trying to reinvent the wheel. That said, Net Worth's two best songs come when he goes out on a limb, including the celestial Prefab Sprout-style ballad "The Love Photography" and the rousing "I'll Give You Everything."
"I'll Give You Everything" is Net Worth's centerpiece. It reflects on Stuffco's pivotal move from Edmonton to Toronto many years ago, before he eventually settled in New York: "Came to the six / Looking for good times and kicks / 'I think it could be a good fit.'" It's a great song on its own terms, but it also sounds startlingly 1987, right down to the flecks of Americana—twangy guitar, retro vocal harmonies—amidst the synth sounds.
These two songs represent Stuffco's greatest departure from past records, and they reveal the budding star that's been lurking in his vibrant instrumental tracks up to this point. For those looking for the old Jex Opolis charm, you'll find it in tracks like "Listen To The Band" and "Dark Power," which have the same knotty leads and extended jamming as before, just couched in an '80s aesthetic. But Net Worth points to something much more ambitious, signaling a new era that channels Stuffco's casual virtuosity into music you could conceivably hear on the radio. A midlife crisis doesn't always have to be a bad thing, after all—sometimes you come out the other side knowing exactly what makes you happy.
01. What Am I Gonna Do?
02. Listen To The Band
04. Want It Now
05. The Love Photography
06. I'll Give You Everything
07. Net Worth
08. Dark Power
10. Doing Nothing