Review – Unemployment Blues – The Person & The People

Kelsey Simpkins

There’s something to be said for slow and steady wins the race. But there is also success in taking detours. The Person & The People are now subscribers of both with their latest release, Unemployment Blues.

They’re a Twin Cities staple, for many years now a local band playing gigs regularly around Minneapolis and Saint Paul, opening for friends as well as touring acts, and occasionally headlining at their release shows. You’ll often find them at Turf Club, Triple Rock, and 7th Street Entry. The Person & The People is fronted by Nick Costa, a proliferate singer-songwriter who can’t seem to stop making music.

A driving force, Costa gathered the band back together quickly after losing drummer Adam Mallory to a new job on the West Coast in 2016 to produce the band’s second album this year – and their fourth in the past three. Unemployment Blues follows Dark & Low, but takes a much different direction in style, sound and message.

Expecting another tight album full of inventive indie garage-rock, Costa surprised this veteran listener with a stripped-down, intimate album about God, the meaning of life, love and pizza. Maybe it was the circumstances (unemployment) or maybe it was the timing (impulsive), but Costa and crew have recorded something this time around that is as good recorded as it will be live.

In late October, they performed two shows at The Warming House in south Minneapolis, something the previous material would never have suited. Like that performance, the album was recorded in a basement; a type of space that invites honesty, intimacy and the joy of simplicity. And for being recorded mostly in one take, an effortless air of practice and experience permeates the album, Costa confidently and calmly at the wheel.

When he sings “God’s dead and nothing matters,” I find a sense of optimism and reflection in antithesis to the darkness of the phrase. When Costa croons lines in “What if I Don’t Want to Go Home,” I hear pieces of crisp and clever writing that remind me of Father John Misty’s latest. I find past sounds of early City and Colour creeping in on the title track and in the solid guitar foundation on which the record is built. And the band keeps the listener company in moments of modern crises, helping keep us occupied as Costa asks that same simple request in “Aimless.”

What makes this album great, however, is that it isn’t aimless. It’s cohesive. Well composed. Simple and straightforward. In the moment, and relevant to the moments many of us have gone through, or will go through again. We all know the feeling of unemployment blues. What Costa and The Person & The People have done is put this into an album, and an experience – that unlike the anxiety of unemployment, we will gladly return to again and again.

If it were feasible, I’d argue Costa should be unemployed more often. Or rather, employed more often in what he and this band do best.