Over the years, Young Jesus have evolved into an expansive indie rock band with long, sprawling, guitar-led excursions, but their new album Shepherd Head is something different. Main member John Rossiter spends a lot of the album diving into his love of electronic music, incorporating dance beats, glistening keys, warped loops and samples, and more. Some parts feel tight and hyper-focused, while others are looser and more improvisational. And he mixes it up between synthetic sounds and organic ones, like when he brings in the fluttery acoustic guitar of the title track or what I assume are pounding live drums on album opener "Rose Eater." Some songs lean more in the direction of experimental sound pieces, but he also has some of his best traditional songwriting yet on this album, like with the gorgeous art pop of "Ocean," which features guest vocals from his Saddle Creek labelmate Tomberlin. There's a lot to like and a lot to take in, and the album only gets better with more and more listens.

The album's out today, and along with the release, John has also broken down some of the major influences behind the album. It's an interesting list -- the items John chose aren't songs or albums, but as you listen to the album and read his commentary on each pick, you can start to see and hear how just about all of this stuff shaped the direction of Shepherd Head. Read on for John's list...

Gardening
I started doing garden and hardscape work a few months into the pandemic. We focused on planting what can thrive in our climate in Los Angeles. That involves a lot of drought tolerant plants, a lot of native plants. I came to love the smell of sages, ceanothus in bloom, sycamores, coyote mint. I love pruning citrus trees because the branches are so fragrant when cut. When we did hardscape work, we tried to take what was available on a property-- stones buried in soil, fallen branches, concrete. We'd reuse those materials to break up the concrete, make it into a path outlined by branches. We did a lot of mulching. It's nice to realize that, even in these ecologically stressed times, there are ways to combat that with what you choose to plant and how. We don't need to be using endless water and fertilizers. A lot of the supplements we need we can access ourselves with rainwater catchment, building up the soil with mulch and compost, and greywater from a laundry machine. I started to believe I had some agency in this situation, rather than waiting around for it to be fixed.

Anyway, it took some of the burden off music. I got a lot of calm from just being physically tired and stimulated at work. And watching plants grow (or die) gave me a lot of patience. There will be more plants. There will be more music. Also, using my laptop and the SM57 I had at home, rather than going to a studio, fits in with that ethos.

Our dog
I think walking our dog had a tremendous effect on the music. In fact, I met Arswain because our pups like each other. I like that this music was a little bit dictated by those random sweet things in life. And of course, she's howling to the tin flute in the song "Shepherd Head."

Teenage John
I used to record things on Garageband as a teenager. I always was very proud of them, but for some reason didn't consider it Real Music. Real Music had to be made in a studio. Anyway, I've been connecting with that time in my life a bit more. The loss of a close friend brought some of us from high school closer together. I started revisiting those methods. Garageband became a skill I could actually be quite proud of and its limitations inspired some super interesting sounds. Sometimes, having so many options is a bad thing. It can be nice to have a limited understanding of a limited program, and to try to make something beautiful with that.

Emma
My friend Emma had a tremendous influence on my musical tastes these past few years. She showed me Larry Heard, Derrick May, Cybotron. Have you heard the 12" version of "Why" by Carly Simon? Amazing. Anyway, Emma lived with us during lockdown and we had some very beautiful times dancing and making meals in the kitchen during some dark times. Enchanting the world. My partner and her sister are particularly good at that. Making the mundane special.

David Toop
I learned about u-Ziq, The Congos, Jon Hassell, Derek Bailey, The KLF, and many more from David Toop. He's a wonderful writer, and the way he angles into music through poetry, through texture, through emotion really resonates with me. Major UK influence on this album I'm realizing! My friend Emma is British-- then there's Burial and Tricky and the Blue Nile. David Toop's from Enfield. I drink a lot of tea. Cheers.

More From Brooklyn Vegan