John Wolfington
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John Wolfington

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The best kept secret in music



"I wait for you, baby you'll always be the same / I know you now, baby you're never gonna change," John Wolfington's bluesy voice utters in resignation during "12 mph", the opening track on his self-titled debut album. Waiting....for people to show, for decisions to be made, for dreams to what Wolfington's does a lot of in these 10 songs, along with walking around New York City with his eyes open.

To a sparse backdrop of guitar and drums (machine or live), plus bass and piano on some songs, Wolfington plays slow, dreamy, soulful urban folktales about lonely people and the city they inhabit. His songs have the groundedness of a street-savvy rock and roller, the sinisterness of that mysterious fellow lurking in the shadows, and a head-in-the-clouds surrealist bent. The latter emerges on the beautiful "Ageless Sky" ("All I wait for / A taste of sunshine / You flying"). All 10 songs have an inherent sadness to them, and the intimacy of someone sharing his inner thoughts, but Wolfington doesn't come across as a mope basking in depression for its own sake.

Wolfington lives in Brooklyn, and somehow the album has something essentially NYC about it, perhaps because at least two songs make direct reference to the city. "Great Divide" is a lazy shuffle which finds Wolfington on Broadway, thinking about "the fame and violence", or maybe "the fame in violence", or maybe both, I'm not sure. His lyrics' poetic quality is also found in "Coney Island", where tells a sad dream-story about the Coney Island freak show.

The musical accompaniment throughout the album (supplied by Wolfington, along with Steve Shelley of Sonic Youth and Tim Foljhan of Two Dollar Guitar) might be sparse, but sets up a mysterious, melancholy mood that persists from song to song. On a few songs the music gets funkier, a little jazzier or, on one trak at least, a bit more experimental, but overall the atmosphere is ponderous, ghostly and, in a downhearted sort of way, quite beautiful.

In the world John Wolfington creates on his fine debut, the world is never exactly happy, but it is peaceful, in that quiet-state-of-mind sort of way. Yet underneath that calm is despair, confusion, anxiety. Even "Race the Sun", the closest to a love song here, isn't especially bright: "And darkness will forgive / This ugly place has never looked so fine…darkness is your friend / It's the only thing that never makes you blind." Here darkness and confusion are omnipresent. Despair only goes away in the quiet, solitary moments, or in the writing of songs as release, I suppose. On John Wolfington's fine debut he transfers sad, hurt feelings into unique, quietly stunning music that stays with you. - Dave Heaton


An eponymous debut on Steve Shelley’s Smells Like label, John Wolfington evokes a landscape of dry drum sounds and lonesome guitar paired with his soothing croon—its intimacy making it one of the most enjoyable “night time” records since The The’s “Dusk”.

Steve and fellow Two Dollar Guitar collaborator Tim Foljahn do appear on the record with Wolfington, but it’s the songs with a plaintive electronic pulse (read: drum machine) that stand out for me. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with Shelley’s drumming, believe me—“Ageless Sky” is amazing because of Steve’s signature work. “Race the Sun” is my absolute favorite on the record, though: its mood perfectly encapsulating the whole of the disc in heartstring-tugging vocals and moody guitar.

I don’t believe I can do John Wolfington justice in words. He deserves a little more than I can put into phrase. It’s a great record, though.
- fac193

"sound the sirens"

John Wolfington is a Colombian-born, Brooklyn-based songwriter whose debut album is 10 songs worth of creative, well written soulful music – a crooner’s paradise. Opening with the downbeat, solemn “12 mph”, it sets a moody tone equipped with somber vocals and a faint accompaniment of guitar twanging. It is followed by the more active “Ageless Sky”, with drums and guitar playing a larger part it remains subtly sad – with haunting vocals that remain almost whispered throughout the track.

Wolfington incorporates a drum machine as well, acting as the looping backbeat to “Race the Sun” – a dreamy and floaty audio experience. Seen again later in the track “Coney Island”, Wolfington’s use of the drum machine isn’t in excess. It adds a slightly surreal feel to the album instead of perhaps making it distracting or monotone. There is an eerie sense to “Maybe I’ll Go”, a blend of straightforward rock/indie with Wolfington’s sense of mood and sensitivity.

In essence, this release is a solid and eclectic mixture of indie, pop and alternative sensibilities that evoke dark, passionate and solemn feelings - similar to that of Echo and the Bunnymen and maybe Arab Strap. If Wolfington continues at this pace, his work and music will be a mainstay in a crowded landscape of individuality and promise. Released on Smells Like Records, which was founded by Sonic Youth skins man Steve Shelley.


While the bulk of popular music gets under your skin in a second, John Wolfington's self-titled album prefers to penetrate slowly, then quickly expand to break loose surprisingly new emotions and ideas. Wolfington is no stranger to surprises. After sending off a tape to Steve Shelley of Sonic Youth, the NYC guitar player ended up with an album -- with Mr. Shelly so impressed he signed on to play drum tracks -- filled with stripped-down arrangements that burst forth to reveal a nakedness of the soul. Wolfington's vocals follow a quiet, surrendered nonchalance -- sometimes whispered, other times bellowed, all times connecting. In the same way the "tears of a clown syndrome" sheds light on the sadness behind the comedy act, "Coney Island" captures the emptiness behind the full-capacity, boardwalk chaos of summer where, despite the imagery of freak shows and roller coasters, you're made to feel all by yourself. All in all, there's vulnerability in these songs; and what can a sentient being in these times relate to more than vulnerability? -- - surfer magazine


After a freak meeting with Sonic Youth front-man Thurston Moore, John Wolfington ended up recording on SLR. The sound that John conjures up is best heard late at night on headphones or on a rainy day. Even with their depressing overtone the songs are still very enjoyable. Label-head Steve Shelley and label-mate Two Dollar Guitar member Tim Foljahn help out on most of the tracks. John’s vocals are very quiet and subdued but are brought out well in the mixing. They instrumentation is very varied and creative. It’s easy to do mope rock but it’s hard to do it well and not sound the same. Wolfington has succeeded here on all fronts. On “Wire” John resorts to a very cool, low-key drum track and some samples placed over it to finish off the song. Despite the moodiness it is still a fine album that indie fans of all sorts will enjoy. He is yet another one of those amazing bedroom musicians who after many years has finally been discovered.
(Smells Like Records 2001)
Review date: 2003-04-03 00:00:00 by Dennis Scanland - musicemissions


John Wolfington Self Titled Smells Like Records 2001


Feeling a bit camera shy


I had a band named Faker in 1999 Jordan Schur now president of Geffen offered us a deal but wanted us to work with a little known guy named fred durst. I hated his music and told Jordan no. He gave us money but never followed thru with the deal.

I was the songwriter and loved Sonic Youth. I broke up the band and recorded some songs on my own and sent them to Tim Folijahn who passed them on the Steve Shelley. He liked them and asked me to record for Smells Like.

My album came out in 2001 and did okay. I toured europe and opened for interpol, Luna and some other bigger bands. Then I moved to LA to start a band with former Hole guitarist Eric Erlandson. He and I worked on songs for several months and listened to a lot of Tones on Tail and Klaus Nomi. We got Blackie O from urge and Eva Gardner from Mars Volta and started doing shows culminating with a opening slot for Interpol at the Henry Fonda. Then eric quit.

Now I am recording the follow up to my solo debut with Fisherspooner/ Fiery Furnaces producer Nicolas Vernhes. It sounds like Eno, Nick drake, Bunnyman, Tangerine Dream, Plastic Ono Band and through all of this I have really learned how to write a song.