Smile Politely

Johnathan Rice: The perfect compliment

It’s hard not to be jealous of Johnathan Rice. In the last ten years he’s released albums on the legendary Reprise label, played Roy Orbison in Walk Hard, produced records with Mike Mogis, recorded with Elvis Costello, toured with R.E.M., Ben Gibbard and David Bazan, and collaborated and dated Jenny Lewis. Whoa.

The singer/songwriter released his third full-length album Good Graces on Tuesday and his opening slot for Dawes and Kurt Vile on Friday will be his second show after its release. It’s pretty easy to dismiss Good Graces as a 30 minute-long floaty love album.

While that might be easy to do, you’d be wrong in assuming that Rice would spend a full album boring you to death singing about full-blown love for a significant other (“My Heat Belongs To You”) or wanting to be wrapped up in the love of his counterpart. Rice’s biggest successes come when he lets his friends in on the fun.

And guess who his friends are?

If you guessed Jenny Lewis, the Watson Twins, Dawes’ bassist Wiley Gelber, Conor Oberst’s drummer Jason Boesel, and ex-Rilo Kiley drummer and producer Pierre de Reeder, then you’d be correct.

These musicians don’t overpower Rice’s musical ability, however. What they do is perfectly compliment the Los Angeles feel of the record. It’s airy and mellow at certain points (“Nowhere At The Speed of Light”) and at others you’ll hear pulsating organs and surf-rock guitar solos (“Surfer’s Lament”). The vibes that Rice gives off via Good Graces could easily be absorbed while lounging at the beach or, strangely, a fall day that might require a jacket and a coffee.


Check out Johnathan Rice as he opens for Kurt Vile and Dawes tonight in Urbana at the Urbana Civic Center Outdoor Stage. His set starts at 7:30 p.m.

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