Bedroom pop producers have been keeping busy during the coronavirus lockdown, and Jawny, the West Coast DIY artist born Jacob Sullenger and previously known as Johnny Utah, is just one example. His latest project ‘For Abby’, a 10-song ‘mixtape’ which is “definitely not an EP, but also not an album”, was completed during a productive period of isolation. Yet it has all the boldness and experimentation of an EP matched with the structure and concept of an album, making it one of the most interesting musical offerings to come out of the lockdown era yet.
‘For Abby’ is effectively a mixtape recorded for a girl (Abby, obvs) who Jawny is trying to win back — albeit a bit unsuccessfully. It opens with him recording a message into an “old school” mixtape which sees Jawny exhibiting his deadpan sense of humour. “I’m not even a bad guy, you know: I made you pasta that one time!” he cries, before excellent opener ‘Sabotage’ kicks the project into life. With a killer guitar riff and a pummelling beat, this angsty break-up number channels the laidback rock of Mac DeMarco and Kurt Vile but with the wit and bite of Beck.
It’s immediately followed by ‘For Abby”s standout track ‘Super Bad Mantra’, a wistful slacker-funk song that combines indie-pop with moments of hip-hop which hark back to Jawny’s roots as a budding rap producer. The playful ‘You Got A Man’ follows and is reminiscent of ‘Odelay’-era Beck, showcasing Jawny’s clever wordplay on a project which also sees him make humorous references to the disparate likes of Monopoly, Janis Joplin and Hugh Heffner.
While the first half of ‘For Abby’ is more of an upbeat celebration of love, the second part is more introspective and features the balladry of songs like the low-fi acoustic number ‘Colouring’ and the project’s wistful title track, which experiments well with dreamier synths. The mixtape closes with ‘Honeypie’, his breakout TikTok superhit which led to a big label deal with Interscope. Sitting somewhere between the two sides of the project’s upbeat funk and lyrical introspection, it serves as a perfect moment of closure for ‘For Abby’.
Following a busy summer of lockdown-inspired DIY projects, ‘For Abby’ stands out as one of the most innovative and colourful. Packed full of funky slacker rock beats and infectious indie-pop anthems, Jawny’s pleasing stripped-back, lo-fi style will only add to the growing cult fanbase he’s already amassed. An assured project from an artist who continues to go from strength to strength.
Release date: October 27
Record label: Interscope