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JFH Music Review

John Van Deusen, (I Am) Origami, Pt. 1: The Universal Sigh

John Van Deusen
(I Am) Origami, Pt. 1: The Universal Sigh

Artist Info: Discography
Genre(s): Pop Rock / Indie
Album length: 10 tracks: 33 minutes, 54 seconds
Street Date: June 9, 2017


Change can be hard, especially when it’s on the scale of do-or-die. But John Van Deusen knew both his life and his newfound marriage were hanging in the balance, so surrender to healthy change he must. Then he hit rock bottom and rekindled a relationship with God in earnest that had gone dormant. With this death of a band (The Lonely Forest), came his rebirth as a solo artist, and a new focus on the pursuit of the lasting things in life: faith in the maker and the love of his spouse. This shift from the trappings of rock n’ roll fame and fortune couldn't have been easy, and his first trepidatious step toward it as a solo act must have been awkward. This is the first part of what would ultimately be a four-part series he called (I Am) Origami Pt. 1: The Universal Sigh.

As he struck out on his own, his prolific songwriting came in handy with more than enough material at the ready. With this new adventure, Van Deusen leans more toward straightaway pop than pop/rock with an indie punk-rock ethic of his former band. He continues to communicate his authentic musings on faith, doubt, and life with a tremolo charm. I imagine him nervously stepping up to the microphone with guitar in hand as he faces a regional fandom steeped in the secular music culture of the northwest. Would they be willing to follow JVD if his new aim was to do his utmost for his highest? On The Universal Sigh, not every song is addressed to the creator, but every song is informed by, and influenced by, his now vibrant faith. All in all, this is artfully done, and in no way does his presentation of lyrics or posture do anything to turn away any potential audience.

The highlights hit immediately with the opener, “Always on Fire,” laying out the album direction immediately with a string swell intro and gentle guitar plucking. Additionally, lyrically he lays the album thesis out with the first lines, “I've needed a good, healthy reason to change/Day after day with no direction/Revealing yourself differently here with You/Nothing but excitement, and curious infection.” Later in the song, JVD confesses to the Lord that, “I'm always on fire / But Your heart may be my water.” While both “Mind Reader” and “ Bitter End” kick the pace up a notch, it’s “Don’t Pitch Correct Me” that I find myself humming all day after listening to its ear-worm melody. It’s this reviewer's favorite uptempo tune of this batch of songs.

Another favorite song is the visceral storytelling he uses in “I Was Six” to lament his “slow to learn, and quick to fail” approach to learning that is still a struggle with a story from his elementary years. Following this with the palpable ache of “Absentee Heartbeat,” about his wife’s miscarriage, is a classic one-two gut-punch. Lastly, closer “Forgive Me Audrey Horne” utilizes a sly reference to a Twin Peaks television character as a stand-in to essentially talk to his wife. He pleads for another chance, effectively questioning with the lines, “Oh if I change my ways, commit my days/Will you try this? Guard my-/Impulsive running, wisdom shunning.” It’s a fitting and vulnerable way to end the album where it began on a confessional and earnest open-ended note.

Ultimately, The Universal Sigh is a good start to greater things to come. It's a perfect setup for the three albums to follow, with the fourth being a perfect amalgam of all the sounds and themes of the first three. I’m eternally grateful Van Deusen was up for the career pivot toward sustainable health as he’s easily been my favorite artist of the last six years. I’ve been on a journey and his songs have been my soundtrack. If you enjoy heart-on-your-sleeve authenticity and a catchy indie pop/rock vibe, then John Van Deusen is one to check out post haste.

- Review date: 7/4/23, written by Josh Balogh of

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. Record Label: Monopath Records
. Album length: 10 tracks: 33 minutes, 54 seconds
. Street Date: June 9, 2017
. Buy It: iTunes
. Buy It: AmazonMP3

  1. Always on Fire (4:12)
  2. Mind-Reader (3:55)
  3. The Bitter End (3:45)
  4. Don't Pitch Correct Me (3:12)
  5. Masterworks (2:57)
  6. I Was Six (3:23)
  7. Absentee Heartbeat (2:52)
  8. The Universal Sigh (3:07)
  9. Mass Effection (2:50)
  10. Forgive Me Audrey Horne (3:35)



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