Pre-Code Hollywood celebrates classic pop of a bygone era, while experimenting with the avant-garde in a way that is distinctly modern. The album, the fifth from New Zealand-based artist Jonathan Bree, exudes a nostalgic charm reminiscent of a John Hughes movie soundtrack. A producer and musician best known for his cinematic brand of orchestral pop, Bree’s deep baritone and musical arrangements—which often feature sliding strings and chamber instruments such as the celeste, harp, and timpani—draw inspiration from classic artists like Lee Hazlewood and Serge Gainsbourg, but are reborn as something entirely his own. A dark disco album full of sad bangers, Pre-Code Hollywood synthesizes Bree’s years of experience and craftsmanship into a refined, focused, and bold collection. It’s his most pop-forward and exciting work to date.
While working on the album’s demos, Bree noticed a certain 1980’s aesthetic about them and sent a brave email to “The Hitmaker” Nile Rodgers - Chic mainman and producer of David Bowie’s Let’s Dance album. The two ended up collaborating on the album’s title track, as well as the standout single 'Miss You' (with Rodgers producing and performing guitar on both tracks). Rodgers’ touch elevates the recordings to ambitious, scorching dance floor heaters. 'Miss You,' an aching yet groovy duet with longtime collaborator Princess Chelsea, also serves as the thematic core of the album: a tale of longing, separation, and the road back to connection.
Gaining a cult following through extensive touring across the globe, Bree's anonymous, masked persona also extends to his live shows, where he and his band play against a backdrop of cinematic projections created specifically for each song as two dancers perform otherworldly choreography. His aesthetic is on full display in the video for his breakthrough 2017 hit ‘You're So Cool’ which has amassed over 28 million views on YouTube and was voted Time Out New York’s music video of that year. He also gained prior recognition for his part on the massive viral hit by Princess Chelsea 'Cigarette Duet' (he both sang on it and directed the music video, which now has over 80 million views).
"Another near-brilliant exercise in restraint and underplayed feeling that cuts just as deep as music made by those who shout their pain from the rooftops."
Allmusic on After The Curtains Close
"The avant garde New Zealander, formerly of twee duo The Brunettes, blends his tongue-in-cheek wit with brooding, sexy lounge pop. It doesn’t get much better than this."
Las Vegas Weekly on Sleepwalking
- Jonathan Bree
- Pre-Code Hollywood
- Lil' Chief Records
- Catalogue Number
- Release Date
- May 12, 2023
- LP (special)