John Hoskinson
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John Hoskinson

Band Rock Singer/Songwriter


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The best kept secret in music


"Four Stars!"

Gorgeous pop craftsmanship from West Coast upstart
Fans of densely melodic, melancholy pop will flip for Los Angeleno John Hoskinson's solo debut. Though he's been on the periphery of the LA scene for a decade, Miscellaneous Heathen exceeds all expectations. Obsessed with romantic themes of all stripes, his songs, built on acoustic guitar and autumnal piano, revolve around insinuating hooks and a winsome veneer. The bouncy "I Belong To You", with its falsetto chorus, is the showpiece; the more existential numbers, like "Going Nowhere", will reel you back in. The lost link between Rubber Soul and Emitt Rhodes.

- Luke Torn - Uncut Magazine (U.K.)

""No weak tracks...""

Since getting this album last fall, it's been in heavy rotation on my iPod, particularly "I Hope I Die Before You Do," "Waiting for Someone to Call," and "She Still Plays Around," each of them a polished power pop gem. Fact is, this is one of my favorite recent albums; there are simply no weak tracks at all, and it rarely leaves my CD player or iPod without several spins. This is intelligent, well written pop music by a master of the form, with an engaging vocal presence and sure ear for hooks. The record was produced by Joe Ongie, and features the equally excellent Eugene Edwards on guitar (my guess is Hoskinson's main instrument is piano, although he's a multi-instrumentalist.) There's certainly echoes of McCartney and lesser known talents like Jason Falkner and Chris von Sneidern here, as well as hints of early Peter Case material, but for a debut album, this is a complete success. Add to that a really great album cover, and you can file it right up there with Nils Lofgren's solo debut album from 1976 or Matthew Sweet's "Girlfriend" as a classic of the genre.

- Kent H. Benjamin - Pop Culture Press

"This Man Can Do It All"

John Hoskinson has just released "Miscellaneous Heathen," an 11-song collection that boasts dazzling and affecting vocals blended with strong songwriting, wide-ranging musical arrangements and that magic touch that cruelly eludes the majority of aspiring artists.

Many local musicians tend to apologize for their self-produced CDs - typically noting that they lacked the time, money and team of skillful backing players to achieve their ideal recording. Hoskinson's "Miscellaneous Heathen" stands up to the best discs I've received this year, clearly outdistancing the majority of recent major-label releases in terms of intelligent songwriting, artful vocal arrangements and the sound of the recording itself.

With Hoskinson's impressive skills on guitar, piano and bass serving as a solid foundation, guests such as Eugene Edwards (lead guitar), Peter Miller (cello), Don Clucas (trumpet) and Joe Ongie (glockenspiel) provide icing on the sonic cake.

"I had been hoping to do a CD since 1999," Hoskinson said in an interview this week.

"After hearing 'Lovefest' (Ongie's self-produced third album, released in 2000,) I knew this was the guy I wanted to do mine," Hoskinson recalled.

Because Ongie was busy producing several other projects, including Seal Beach singer-songwriter Michael Miller's "When We Come To," he suggested that Hoskinson continue to write and produce demos until they could work together.

"In the meantime I was writing more and more songs, and I started using the same recording software as Joe," said Hoskinson.

When they got together to work this year, Ongie was so impressed with Hoskinson's home demos, he suggested that they just record the drums at his Santa Ana studio and leave the other vocal and instrumental tracks as they were.

"Some songs dated back to 2002; some I wrote two months before we recorded the drum tracks in January," Hoskinson said.

Although the recording and production efforts of Ongie and Hoskinson are impressive, those efforts would be wasted without the power of Hoskinson's songs. He explained that Neil Finn (Crowded House, Split Enz) and Paul McCartney have had a strong influence on his approach to crafting songs.

"I like McCartney; the way he can write happy songs, but there is a sadness seeping through," he noted. "I always write the music first; I'll start with a verse or chorus. A melody will suggest itself, and then the rest of the song comes together. The lyrics come last. That's not the smartest way to write songs, but that's the way I've always done it."

But no matter the process, achingly beautiful ballads ("It's Not My Place"), biting rockers ("I Hope I Die Before You Do," "She Still Plays Around") and raw acoustic-anchored gems such as "Uncharacteristic (It Must Be You)" all hit their creative mark.

In addition to performing solo dates, Hoskinson has been performing select shows as a duo with Edwards and as part of the Eugene Edwards Band.

"It's a nice synergy," Hoskinson said of his work with Edwards, who has just released his debut CD, "My Favorite Revolution."

"We complement each other without competing."

Hoskinson has been favorably compared to Finn. But it was only without particular emphasis and near the end of a lengthy interview that Hoskinson mentioned that he actually joined Finn onstage to perform "Weather With You" at Largo in Los Angeles in July 2000. Hoskinson's Web site features a photo and an audio clip of the performance.

Despite the strong early reviews coming in the wake of "Miscellaneous Heathen," Hoskinson is modest about the increasing number of accolades being thrown his way by musicians, critics and an ever-growing number of fans.

"My goals are realistic. I'd be happy if I broke even," Hoskinson said.

Hoskinson will perform a free show at the Gypsy Den, 125 N. Broadway, Santa Ana, 8:30-11 p.m. Aug.27.

For more information on coming Hoskinson performances, as well as to listen to audio clips and details about getting a copy of "Miscellaneous Heathen," visit www

Freelance writer Robert Kinsler has covered pop music in Orange County for the Register since 1992.
- Orange County Register

"Impressive debut"

Speaking of talented singer/songwriters with talent to spare, let us introduce John Hoskinson and his debut album, Miscellaneous Heathen. A fixture on the Los Angeles-area pop scene for a few years now, Hoskinson comes armed with a clear, expressive voice, an armload of highly effective, slightly melancholy tunes and a crack band (featuring guitarist Eugene Edwards, a major talent in his own right) to help put them across. The jaunty "I Hope I Die Before You Do" and "Waiting for Someone to Call" are easy-to-spot winners, but the gorgeous piano ballad "When She Speaks" and the true blue power pop of "She Still Plays Around" are both killer, as well. An impressive debut, to be sure.

- John M. Borack - Amplifier Magazine

"#1 Local CD of 2004"

With the possible exception of the latest titles by U2 and Snow Patrol, no other 2004 release has enjoyed as much time in my player this year as the debut of John Hoskinson. Armed with a voice that draws natural comparisons to Neil Finn, Hoskinson has a knack for writing instantly memorable songs and finding the right mix of supporting players to render those tunes perfectly. Information:

You might like if you enjoy: Crowded House, Finn Brothers, the Beatles
- Orange County Register

"West Virginia Univ. Review"

This week from the CD Baby files comes the perfect, cheery, warm-weather listen, from (where else?) Southern California. A veteran of the So-Cal music scene, John Hoskinson's first album, Miscellaneous Heathen, was released last August to great local acclaim.

This talented musician and the ones who support him on his debut effort prove you can perfect all that's great about upbeat pop music for just $400, plus about $1,000 for manufacturing. "Ninety-five percent of the CD was recorded in my apartment using my G4 Mac," he said.

So what is all that's great about pop music, you ask?

A splash of Ben Folds-style piano, a pinch of Weezer retro, a Barenaked Ladies-like sense of humor and a golden voice that resembles none other than Better Than Ezra front man, Kevin Griffin. The result is a polished pop sound that's summer-radio ready. In other words, you would never know it was practically homemade. From packaging to lyrics to the bonus trumpet and cello on several tracks, Miscellaneous Heathen is truly a finished product.

The first of 11 tracks is "I Hope I Die Before You Do," a great, funny yet romantic tune that Hoskinson calls on his Web site "basically a twisted love song" to his wife. I'm a big fan of unique lyrics and it doesn't come much more original than, "I hope I die before you do because I can't find another you."

The next songs are mostly guitar-driven, and then on track four, cello is a great addition to a slower "It's Not My Place." "Waiting for Someone to Call," puts a little more focus on piano for the rockin' pop rhythm.

On track seven, "When She Speaks," Hoskinson performs the vocals, piano, guitar and bass. Impressive, but by number seven, trust me, you will already be a devoted fan.

If you don't take my word for it, consider this: The Orange County Register named Miscellaneous Heathen the No. 1 best release of 2004. Robert Kinsler wrote, "With the possible exception of the latest titles by U2 and Snow Patrol, no other 2004 release has enjoyed as much time in my player this year as the debut of John Hoskinson."

And I'll add to that. I can see any one of these songs playing in the background of Fox's The O.C. or at a real-life summer party anywhere from the Pacific Coast to Grant Avenue. He's poignant, yet funny, and dang good for getting you in the mood for sunny summer days.

- Jessica Wiant
- The Daily Athenaeum

"Toledo, OH press says..."

A heathen by any other name …: John Hoskinson "Miscellaneous Heathen." This one gets you from the opening hammered piano chords, and delivers one well-crafted song after another — a little McCartney, some Peter Case, even The Turtles ("I Belong to You"). "I Hope I Die Before You Do" has one of those perfect choruses for the broken-hearted: "You’re my fav’rite thing/ Please forgive me when I sing, that/ I hope I die before you do/ ’Cuz I’m no good without you." Although an independent project, these songs boast a professional production, as well as a gob of great pop hooks.

- Steven J. Athanas
- Toledo City Paper

"Beatles-esque Bounce"

Opening with the insistent pounding of piano chords, "Miscellaneous Heathen" serves immediate notice that this is going to be a sprightly pop foray unafraid of a little aural confrontation. Best known for playing with kindred rock spirit Eugene Edwards (who turns up with a couple of mean guitar solos), Hoskinson's no slouch at hooking his own intelligently crafted ditties, but often prefers to play balladeer -- though even midtempo numbers like the snappy "Waiting For Someone To Call" and graceful "When She Speaks" sport a Beatles-esque bounce.

- Bliss
- Pasadena Weekly

"There's more to see when you're all over the map"

John Hoskinson's "Miscellaneous Heathen" CD starts off with a stuttering piano straight from "A Day in the Life." You, listener, think, "Ah, I know where we're going with this."

Thing is, you're wrong. That McCartneyish introduction swiftly veers, almost up on two wheels, into a beer-hall sing-along, raises a glass, and give you a big hug. There's a sloppy optimism, both in the opening track and in the unabashedly Cowsills-tinged "I Belong to You" that dares you to abandon your hard-fought emo scowl, even if it's just for three minutes or so.

While John Hoskinson respects the lessons of the past, his music is hardly stuck there. There's too much consideration, too much maturity, in the layered, rich arrangements present on even the most stripped-down numbers, for a lazy retro label. All the same, Hoskinson isn't afraid to skim the creme from the last forty-odd years of pop music. Some of his choices are a joy:

Horns on no less than three songs! And they're not ska, either, thank the gods! We're talking in the spirit of (for the young'uns) Belle and Sebastian or (for us old fogies) Van Morrison... ringing trumpets that celebrate and soothe simultaneously.

Mellotrons, strings, and glockenspiels all over the place! The judicious use of these instruments, synthetic and otherwise, and the reedy pipes Hoskinson was born with, is bound to invite comparisons to Michael Penn. If some snap pigeonholing needs to be made, that'll work -- Hoskinson would do well on a bill with earnest, intelligent, clever artists like Penn, Freedy Johnston , Karl Wallinger, Pete Droge, and Peter Case. In fact, arrangements on songs like the beautifully desperate "Going Nowhere", the chiming "Waiting For Someone To Call", and the soaring, determined "Thanks For Nothing" convinced these ears that John had successfully received an implant of songwriting stem cells from Mr. and Mrs. Aimee Mann.

All guitar tones vintage! While partly due to guest Eugene Edwards' uncanny channeling of George Harrison on three songs, most of this is thanks to John himself. Tell me you can't hear Styx "Fooling Yourself" in the driving acoustic guitar of "Uncharacteristic (It Must Be You.)". C'mon, John -- publicly embrace your seventies prog-rock roots!

The best guitar sounds on the record, for this post-punk child's money, are on the near-perfect pop number, "She Still Plays Around". The big, open chords of John's rhythm part hint at the Plimsouls, the Babys, and early Replacements. Put this one on repeat.

Lyrically, this is an album of future screenplays, with "She Still Plays Around" being the Oscar-contender someone needs to write before Ben and Matt get their hands on it. Complex, minimally sketched characters celebrate domestic bliss ("I Hope I Die Before You Do") wear out their friends' sympathies ("It's Not My Place"), struggle in the slow decline of love ("Going Nowhere"), and even appear to miss being off their meds ("Waiting For Someone To Call."). All these souls are slipped next to yours thanks to John's understated vocals and a soundscape that demands full immersion.

"Miscellaneous Heathen" deserves lots of friendly attention, starting with yours. Buy the CD, request the songs on the radio, and go see John Hoskinson play as often as you can so that he makes another record as soon as possible.

Yes, a must!
- MWS Media

"Auspicious Debut"

If, like me, you agree there's a place in the world for intelligent folk-rock, let me direct you to the wonderful debut album from John Hoskinson, Miscellaneous Heathen. Hoskinson is a bit of a throwback to the kind of classic love-songwriting you heard decades ago -- complete with strong melodies expressed through clean, dulcet arrangements.

Together with Joe Ongie, Hoskinson has produced a set of eleven winners. He's not afraid of quiet musical moments, nor does he shy away from optimistic lyrics now and again. He has a warm, friendly voice that's easy on the ears -- expressive and somehow familiar. While Hoskinson plays many instruments (guitar, piano, bass, and then some), he surrounds himself with a talented ensemble of musical friends, including Mike "Soupy" Sessa on drums and Eugene Edwards and Bob Breen on additional guitars.

The album opens with the upbeat piano-driven "I Hope I Die Before You Do", less a grim death wish than a cute celebration of a love where one can't imagine going on without the other. The vocals on this track remind me a bit of Cliff Eberhardt. It features some fine lead guitar from Eugene Edwards and an obscure reference to the Swedish founder of Swanson's TV Dinners.

The mid-tempo ballad "Thanks For Nothing" hearkens back to another era, the music recalling some lazy sunny summer afternoon of yore. Here the singer is sincerely thanking a woman for giving him nothing -- somehow her lack of a response saved him, made everything fall right into place. There are some wonderful vocal harmonies, fine Bob Breen guitar, and a superbly haunting piano coda at song's end.

"I Belong to You" seems a distant musical relative of McCartney's "Good Day Sunshine", with its guitar and horn arrangements (Dan Clucas lends some quality trumpets). Hoskinson takes a simple love song and makes it more with some great touches (on bass and guitar and piano). "Waiting for Someone to Call" at times also recalls musical aspects of "Good Day Sunshine", complete with great horns (and a fine guitar lead by Mr. Edwards). It's a precious little ditty about climbing the walls with loneliness, waiting for help, a friend, a call, something.

One of my favorites here is the gorgeous "It's Not My Place." This lovely lament of a friend's inability to speak to another's oncoming train wreck is chock full of poignant observation: "It's your latest crusade / An endless parade of skeletons and bad decisions / Want to pull you aside / So I can confide you're headed for a big collision / But I guess it's not my place / So I stand silent / On the floor that hits your face / The solution may seem clear / From over here / But I guess it's not my place". Peter Miller does an excellent job of performing David Walsh's cello arrangement on this quiet jewel of a song.

The accomplished acoustic guitar introduction to "Uncharacteristic (it must be you)" reminds me of Jason Falkner's "Both Belong". This sweet folk song is about a man in love who veers between optimist and pessimist, but believes any uncharacteristic behavior must be due to this love. Again, Dan Clucas provides some great horns.

If there's any doubt about the talents of Hoskinson, listen to the sweet aural beauty of "When She Speaks". Here John plays it all, quite masterfully, whilst bemoaning the maddening fact of how his woman "always has a way out."

Further evidence is found on "Going Nowhere". Again, Hoskinson does it all save for Mike Sessa's drums. This is a mellow track about the awkward aftermath following a lover's indiscretion, and features some sweet chorus harmonies as well as a unique instrumental middle lead (cello, clarinet and mandolin voices mixed together on a mellotron).

"She Still Plays Around" is an upbeat rocker, with shades of Rick Springfield in the last verse. This dilemma in song ponders a friend who finds himself in an extremely awkward situation: "My friend's got a new girl / Talks about her all of the time / Never seen him so happy / He can't wait 'til she meets me / One day introduction / Instant recognition / Bite my tongue and I wonder / Should I tell him about her?"

Originally intended to be the title track for an independent movie (that never got finished, alas), the pretty "It's Like Cigarettes" showcases poignant lyrics written by Shelly Frasier (John's wife): "It's like cigarettes / There's no point - don't I know / Nothing ever comes to rest / Until you let it go".

The collaboration between husband and wife for the closing track provides some of the best lyrics on the album. "Time Will Tell" speaks to how the future concedes to history: "She cannot seem / To make herself want to care at all / She's frozen stiff / Can't stop the fall / He built himself a prison cell / He can't conceive / Difference between / His want and need / Time will tell / Your ship may steer itself / To accidental wealth / I wish you well". Here Bob Breen distinguishes himself on guitar and drums, with Sarah Walsh on bass and David Walsh contributing backing vocals. The track is one of quiet dignity.

John Hoskinson arrives as a mature songwriter from the get-go; a quiet force that deserves a following. He's got a strong sense of melody, can write the classic middle bridge and (with Joe Ongie) presents intricate arrangements that mix instruments with precision and care.

Miscellaneous Heathen is a most auspicious debut from an artful and talented newcomer specializing in smart, sensitive songs that fit the classic three-to-four minute mold.


Miscellaneous Heathen (LP)


Feeling a bit camera shy


What happens when an artist combines the melodic and artful songcraft of Crowded House and Peter Case with the inventive and emotional weight of rock ‘n’ roll architects ranging from Paul McCartney to Nick Lowe?

John Hoskinson burst on the Southern California music scene this year following the release of his debut CD, “Miscellaneous Heathen,” garnering the praise of the music press (4-star review in Uncut Magazine; Named #1 CD of 2004 by The Orange County Register’s Robert Kinsler), as well as the ear of enthusiastic radio programmers and adoring audiences at solo shows and festivals. “Miscellaneous Heathen” was released on August 1, 2004 and is now nationally distributed by Burnside Distribution and Tallboy Records.

Since moving to Los Angeles in 2002, John Hoskinson has been winning acclaim with a combination of undeniable songs and equally compelling performances that connect with crowds from his native Southern California to Copenhagen, Denmark and beyond.

And with the release of “Miscellaneous Heathen,” John Hoskinson has delivered fully on the promise of songs that blend an accessible mix of rock and pop he has been honing since the late 1990s.

Songs such as the rollicking “I Hope I Die Before You Do,” and haunting “When She Speaks” fit comfortably alongside the beautiful ballad “It’s Not My Place” and infectious “Waiting For Someone to Call” in a freewheeling and eclectic journey that is sure to please discerning listeners.

Although John Hoskinson played guitar, bass and keyboards on the album, a notable list of illustrious guests add depth to the songs. In addition to Joe Ongie, who co-produced
“Miscellaneous Heathen” and is featured playing glockenspiel, lead guitarist Eugene Edwards, cello player Peter Miller and trumpet virtuoso Dan Clucas all get to shine on the 11-track release.