On his full-length debut West of the West, L.A.-based songwriter/producer Goldroom bends the boundaries of electronic music to build a sleekly composed but soulful update of the quintessential California sound. “I left where I grew up and came to California with all these romantic ideas of what L.A. would be like,” says Josh Legg, a Massachusetts-born multi-instrumentalist who’s made music as Goldroom since 2011.
“Over the years I’ve fallen completely in love with everything about it, even all the grit and grime, and with this album I wanted to pay homage to L.A. and how it still feels so romantic to me.”
Though it takes its title from a Theodore Roosevelt bon mot—“When I am in California, I am not in the West, I am west of the West”—the follow-up to Goldroom’s acclaimed 2015 EP It’s Like You Never Went Away mines much inspiration from Legg’s love for the sea. “For me, ‘west of the West’ can mean the Pacific, which has become an important place for me over the last decade,” he says. A longtime sailor, Legg also
notes that “a lot of my childhood memories are of me and my dad on this little tiny boat, cruising around the New England coast. I spent countless hours just sailing and listening to music, and the feeling of that experience has stayed with me really heavily over the years.” Throughout the album, Goldroom reveals his deep-rooted affinity with the ocean by sculpting expansive arrangements and instilling each song with a serene yet kinetic energy.
That energy’s partly sourced from Goldroom’s ingenuity in interlacing live guitar, bass, and percussion into electronic soundscapes to form a sound both forward-pushing and timeless. On West of the West, he further shapes that glossy but groove-heavy sound by tapping into sensibilities of early French house music. “I don’t feel all that influenced by producers on a day-to-day basis—songwriting is what’s important to me, so I’m usually thinking about guys like Tom Petty or Curtis Mayfield—but there’s an innocence to what producers like Daft Punk and Alan Braxe do that appeals to me,” says Legg. And just as those artists show an intense fascination with the pop landscape of the early ’80s, Goldroom steeps West of the West in its own nostalgia. “I’ve always used music as an escapist device, as a way to try to get back to that feeling of when you were younger and everything was a little more pure and uncomplicated,” he points out. On the album-opening “Silhouette,” for instance, Goldroom brilliantly channels the breezy and bass-powered feel of classic French touch music. Slow-building and warmly intimate, the song bittersweetly muses on “what it means to be far away from someone you love and feeling like part of you is missing without them,” as Legg explains.
From start to finish West of the West sustains that dreamy melancholy, a mood informed by Legg’s solo touring as a DJ in recent years. “Being alone on the road for long stretches of time is a pretty unique experience,” he says. “There’s this dual thing of loving that lifestyle of constantly being in motion, but also missing my family and my friends and feeling pulled back home. That’s definitely something I kept coming back to as I was writing for this record.” Trading off vocals with Irish singer/songwriter Rooty throughout West of the West, Goldroom brings a nuanced emotionality to songs like “Back to You” (a sweetly shimmering feel-good track), “Lying to You” (a darkly propulsive number with all the cinematic intensity of an ’80s pop gem), and “Retrograde” (a gorgeously urgent anthem driven by Rooty’s powerful vocal performance).