John Hoskinson is a singer/songwriter praised by critics for his engaging melodies, immediate vocals and smart lyrics. Raised in California’s Inland Empire as the only boy amongst 6 sisters, Hoskinson trained his ear on the bright Britpop of The Beatles and Elvis Costello and the blissed-out sunshine of The Beach Boys. While soaking up classic song structure, Hoskinson’s upbringing simultaneously helped make him a keen observer of the human condition and an auteur of the 3-minute musical epic.
“When you have six sisters, you become a really good listener,” says Hoskinson. “I could hardly get a word in, so music became my refuge. I started playing guitar, and then a little bit of piano, and eventually found my voice as a songwriter.” He continues, “I write the kind of songs that I really want to hear—melodic pop with a hints of offbeat introspection and dark humor.”
On his second solo release, Pancho Fantastico (Tallboy Records), Hoskinson offers a collection of straight-ahead pop anthems, toe-tapping tongue-in-cheek gems and breathtaking college radio ballads. Hoskinson infuses his traditional pop style with an occasional taste of alt-country angst, bossa nova swagger and vaudeville vamp, which adds to the flavor.
Since arriving in the Silver Lake neighborhood of Los Angeles in 2002, Hoskinson has been earning fans and charming critics with his authentic live shows. Hoskinson had been working out an accessible blend of rock and pop during his garage band days in the 90s and delivered a solid debut, Miscellaneous Heathen, in 2004.
Following up with Pancho Fantastico, Hoskinson has re-teamed with his producing partner Joe Ongie (Minnie Driver, Michael Penn). The congenial vibe of Pancho Fantastico is the result of living room sessions with Luke Adams (Pete Yorn); Brian Whelan and Dan Iead (The Broken West); Mike “Soupy” Sessa (Cracker, Rosie Flores); Eugene Edwards; Robbie Rist; Stevie Blacke (Beck, Glen Phillips); Vince Meghrouni (Mike Watt); and Dan Clucas (Arthur Lee/Love).
“With this record,” says Hoskinson, “Joe [Ongie] and I really wanted to collaborate and work with some of our favorite musicians. We used my acoustic version of each song as a starting point and then began experimenting and bringing in all of these talented players. A lot of the depth and variety came from this process.”
The opening track, “Miss Rejection,” conjures Brian Wilson as swirling harmonies sugarcoat this send-up of a musician’s most loyal mistress. “She’s Changing My Mind” restores your faith with an infectious tribute to true love. “Please Stay Off My Side” gives a nod to The Replacements as it gives the elbow to a well-meaning, mouthy friend. In “I Am Not Surprised,” the bittersweet, Bacharach-esque melody underscores the album’s most earnest and reflective song. Add “Just Think It Over,” “She Makes Me Yawn” and “We Can Never Be Friends” to the list of radio-friendly tracks on Pancho Fantastico.