Prolific and yet self-critical, Justin Johnson makes rock songwriting seem as easy as scribbling emotions or humming a melody. It isn't, as a close listen to his lyrical work with Pretty Little Empire and the Jump Starts proves. Johnson is never clever for clever's sake, never glib in hopes of coming off cooler than he is. He may seem to write what he feels, but he edits, shapes and defines his emotions. Such lines as "I'm not afraid of this economy/baby, morning's been hard on me" and "I can see it now/you don't have to shout it" sting and console at the same time. His principal theme is the recognition of individual weakness and the difficult strength that comes through friendship and love. And while he's already written a handful of the best tunes in the current St. Louis rock scene, he's young. His best work is surely still to come.
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