Some recording projects just seem to have a miraculous touch to them, and JBall’s debut as Hopeful Monster is one of those. Pieced together in rural Nova Scotia at his own Nervous System Studio, Ball writes and performs much of this sweeping, layered pop record, piling horns, strings and extra touches atop his simple, catchy melodies and managing to keep the whole under control—something that acclaimed Elephant Six producer Robert Schneider, dealing in similar circumstances, often has trouble doing. In many less experienced musicians, ambition is one thing, execution quite another, which is why hopeful monster comes off as such a masterstroke. From the quieter, more introspective tracks like “Universal Donor” to the zippier Zombies-esque romps, to the delicate balladry and ambitious arrangements, Ball manages to pull it all off with aplomb. His familiarity with the landscape of pop’s history allows him to both submerse himself in it and subvert it from within, like “Goldmine.” A remarkable debut that sparks hope that this Hopeful Monster is a marathon runner, not a sprinter.