Josh Karch has been in the Portland, OR music scene for over 7 years now. Getting his start as the lead guitarist for the reggae-rock band, Still Region, he has slowly made a name for himself in the Pacific Northwest. As an emerging 21-year-old independent artist, his first self-titled EP (2014) gained frequent radio play and was given the nod by famous reggae artists such as Slightly Stoopid and Stick Figure. Starting in 2017, Josh spent a year working on his first professional full-length album in his home studio, called Still Region Studios. He collaborated with Grammy Nominated producer/audio engineer, Beau Vallis (Pharrell Williams – G I R L) in the process. The finished product turned out to be the 14 track recording, entitled “This Too Shall Pass” – a collection of songs dealing with peace, love, staying present in the moment, friendship, family, good times, unity, and positivity.
All the indie-rock and singer-songwriter staples are in place, the gorgeous harmonies, lush atmospherics, and an easygoing tempo. As the album progresses it expands and, in that expansion, takes on a unique identity helped along by Josh Karch vivid lyrics.
Everything on “This Too Shall Pass” feels more impassioned and personal than the vast majority of current indie-rock discography. All the layers on these tracks combine seamlessly to create a beautiful and sprawling whole. This is the best kind of wide-open music, perfect for driving to an unknown destination. That road-readiness is especially apparent on the album’s first highlight “Let It Go”.
The strummed acoustic guitar, the forward motion percussion and the smooth and laid-back, conversational vocals are a natural fit. There’s a soft haze of organic swirls and reverbed drums to keep a near-cinematic scope, while Karch’s lilting vocals combine and form the subtle grandeur that permeates the album’s every crevice. “Waiting” is a lovely song and goes a long way in helping the album maintain its captivating formula.
The vocal chorus layers on “Walking Away” prove to be especially effective and offer the instruments extra room to breathe, especially the guitar. It’s a beautiful track that elevates the projected trajectory of the album from good to great. Every track on “This Too Shall Pass” is laced with its own unique, original, and intriguing charm.
After a few verses the listening experience begins to feel voyeuristic on “One Reason”, where questions are wrestled with, resolutions are made, and the song jumps out of the speakers on a sprightly beat. Josh Karch’s combination of a classic cool acoustic stance and raw jamming vibe will strike a chord with those of us who really like music the way it was once made.
Make no mistake, with his gorgeous syrupy vocals and organically driven material, Karch delivers the sound of experience and fully rounded mature musical statements. Every now and then he steps leftfield, like on “Datsun” where he delves into a progressive rock type instrumental, complete with prodigious electric guitar soloing.
But the moment is fleeting and quickly gets back to the feel-good acoustic grindstone with “Oahu”. The whole of the album doesn’t lose its focus on the detail as well, which is no easy trick to pull off. Drawing on influences far and wide, it’s an album enlightened by folk, 60s and 70s rock, pop and every point in between, right up until today’s indie flavors, all of which results in a sizeable canvas of sound seemingly paying homage to the future and the past simultaneously.
That this is an album which has a reassuring weight, and an overall feeling of quality to it, can be gauged by the standout tracks “Feet On The Ground”, “Up Too Late” and “Coast Kids”. Josh Karch has a voice that is warm and assured while still vulnerable.
He surrounds that voice with just the right kind of accompaniment – pianos, acoustic guitars and percussion, all of which assert themselves, while leaving Karch’s maverick identity intact. You won’t find much else currently sounding like “This Too Shall Pass”.