Though he's still the sole creative force behind Death Seat, James Jackson Toth has dusted off his Wooden Wand moniker, distancing his own name and hardships from his 12 newest confessionals. Death Seat isn't an autobiography verbatim, but its songs still come from somewhere heartfelt, somewhere conflicted, and somewhere real.
"The Mountain" embodies the aforementioned distance, as Toth sounds like he's watching his own life from afar when he sings "you can see more from the mountain than you can on solid ground." From up high we see plenty, as Toth unflinchingly narrates the tales of a man who openly admits he doesn't want to be held accountable, and can't keep female acquaintances' names straight -- and that's just in the first song. Death Seat is filled with such admissions of loose morality, but Toth remains loveable by poking fun at his own shortcomings. The dark comedy culminates on "I Wanna Make A Difference," when he disguises a song about blatant manipulation and control issues in an upbeat love ballad package. Stripped to just his voice and the simplest of acoustic chords, Toth sounds sarcastically endearing as he sings "I wanna impact how you live, I don't care if it's hurtful or negative."
Jokes aside, Death Seat portrays a man who has lived too many sins to keep the faith. The album's mid-section bathes in religious cynicism, with Toth singing "look at the stars and tell me anything matters at all," on "I Made You," followed with "there's no Jesus Christ in the death seat this ride," on the title track. Still, through all the rough rides Toth and his characters have endured, Death Seat ends on an upbeat note. "Tiny Confessions" finds Toth asking forgiveness for his drinking, hustling ways, and trying to finally see his dreams through. After an album of primal human impulses, infidelity binges and manipulation, it's a relief to hear the album close with one of humanity's more helpful hardwired emotions -- hope. No matter how much shit Toth has been through, it's uplifting to know that at the end of the day, he still believes in something. He has to. After all, he's only human.