I’ve been a fan of Jon McLaughlin since the release of his first full-length album, Indiana . On some days, it’s hard to believe that Jon’s been in the business for over seven years now, but on other days, it’s hard to believe that he hasn’t been around longer. Jon McLaughlin is, by far, one of the most natural emotional conveyors of music in the entire industry. The tone of his voice and how he delivers his lyrics with it across the beautiful instrumentals that he produces is above and beyond top class, and it goes without saying that he’s one of my favorite songwriters ever — so much so that I have one of his handwritten lyrics framed on my bedroom wall above my own keyboard that I received by pledging towards his latest release, Holding My Breath . Dream big, fellas.
Below is a list of 10 songs of Jon McLaughlin’s that I think are among the very best. All of his songs are favorites of mine, but these ones stand out just a little more above the rest, for me, even though I’m such a fan of everything he does. I hope that you give these songs a listen and this list doesn’t just remain static text for you — these tracks absolutely deserve to be heard!
10. “Oh Jesus”
Not everyone in the world may lean towards Christianity, but even if you aren’t the religious type, you can find the beauty in this song. Jon delivers one of his most heartfelt vocals yet and proves there’s beauty in sparsity through performing with just his soft, tender vocal delivery and equally as beautifully quiet work on the piano as he makes a direct plea to Jesus. It’s a compelling narrative that many of us can relate to, and even for those who might not, there is still beauty to be found in the pure honesty of his vocal. The story that he weaves here is top-notch.
9. “Without You Now”
This track is more of what you’d hear played constantly on HAC radio, and for good reason: it’s just one heck of a good, driving number proclaiming independence from a past lover who’s done you wrong. Jon proves here more than any of his other releases, potentially ever, that he can rock out and do it in a way that’s both pop-sensible and true to himself. It also makes for an exciting album opener, as indicated by his 2010 release, Forever If Ever.
8. “The Middle”
This song is the type that any young adult in their late teens or early to mid-twenties has got to get themselves to give a good listen or fifteen to. It’s all of the inspiration that they need packed into a singular song without the schmaltziness of more popular tracks by other artists, trading in over-produced pop leanings for a heartfelt reminder to never forget who you are or where you came from.
7. “Imaginary Tea”
Even though I’m not a father myself, I can see the beauty in this track from off of his latest, Holding My Breath, pretty easily. Its composition effortlessly weaves a story of the innocence of a child and a parent’s deep, intrinsic love for their little bundles of joy. The harmonica is put to use here in a way that adds a nostalgic layer to the whole ensemble. It’s all very sweet.
6. “The Truth”
This song ranks so high on the list just because of my partialness to the era of pop its overall arrangement harks back to. Sure, it’s all very Jon McLaughlin and all very classically cool in and of itself, but the way the backing vocals layer up… the way the piano is so playfully spun… the way the bass is accentuated… how the keys and drums just demand your attention… the pure unadulterated swagger Jon’s head voice and the build-up of the strings exude… It’s all very early Backstreet Boys. That had to be said! And it’s a good thing. A truly fun, in-your-face kind-of song that Jon doesn’t do-up very often, and definitely a pleasant game-changer on Holding My Breath.
5. “My Girl Tonight”
One of the purest and simple love songs that Jon has ever written, and that’s saying something. The subtle drive of the verse is gorgeous in its simplicity like nothing else.
4. “I’ll Follow You”
Like “My Girl Tonight”, this is one of Jon’s more straightforward tracks, yet one of his very best, featuring a lush, yet subtle instrumental ensemble of piano, bass, and rich strings which help to accentuate a promise to one’s true love.
A song that anyone could relate to via its chorus: “After all, we’re only human/Always fighting what we’re feeling/Hurt instead of healin'”. The overall production of this track is very telling of earlier recordings of Jon’s, featuring a raw sense of emotion and vocal quality that had gone unmatched on the piano pop circuit at the time.
2. “If Only I”
An inventive composition that’s only made better by the story that it’s artist tells above it; you genuinely will not hear an arrangement anything like this outside of this particular track, and in its idiosyncrasy, it finds an ability to leverage a deep, hopeless lyric looking back on better times and what could’ve been like it never could’ve been accentuated before. A masterpiece only to be trumped, in my head, by…
…the song that I have hung on my wall, of course. “Indiana” is, to me, still the highlight of Jon’s work by a mile and a half. There is just something truly, truly magical in the way that this track has been composed, and especially in the way that Jon sings it, that feels especially heartfelt and especially rending for the listener to behold. It’s a masterclass work if there ever, ever was one by this artist who so often creates masterpieces in my mind, and with that said, you owe yourself a listen right now — and you can do so right here.
Check out my review of Jon’s latest album, Holding My Breath, here! For all of the latest on Jon, make sure to follow him on Twitter and Facebook, and for all of the latest reviews, interviews, and more, also follow me on Twitter!
What are some of your favorite Jon McLaughlin songs? Sound off in the comments!