The Jon Johns are a duo of musicians/producers who have been making music together since 2018. Their music binds the past and the present together into a harmonious sound with musical influences from the 60’s to now. One-hundred-percent independent, the Jon Johns do everything from writing, playing, recording, producing, mixing and releasing their own music. They currently have their 9 track “Road Trip Mixtape” out now. Within minutes of the mixtape kicking into life, this supremely confident recording suggests a band at the peak of their powers, occupying their own orbit.
It starts with “Make My Day”, a vast, expansive song that shifts its shape multiple times. Initially, its drifting vocals, languidly rumbling drums and twisting bass guitar conjure up something of a bluesy ambience. The drum pattern tightens up, the bassline comes to the fore and it sounds unexpectedly like something off an alternative rock album – a much lusher version of the White Stripes, which during the course of the mixtape, the duo blend with flavors of The Black Keys and Chromeo, among others.
By the time you hit the second track, “Smile” with its rich harmonies and smooth reverbed melody, The Jon Johns sound suspiciously like a band with a hugely beguiling sense of well-placed confidence. It’s like they’re on their 20th anniversary release.
“Stories” only confirm their versatility, and their ability to not be boxed into any one genre. Americana and folk-rock roots abound on this track, as one singular trait powerfully threads its way through all of The Jon Johns songs – a confirmed knack for writing catchy, singalong melodies.
“Fleetwood” again sees the duo switch their style and mood, introducing plenty of warm keyboards into the sonic equation. The vocals too, switch register and tone here, becoming beautifully smooth and conversational.
Intense and funky, “Teenage Love” steps up the momentum and could easily persuade you to take to the dance floor. For all its musical diversity, the “Road Trip Mixtape” never sounds incoherent.
The songs are retro embellished, and however radio-friendly the choruses or the instrumental dynamics, the tight-knit relationship between the vocals and the break-beat percussive rhythms is always at their center. The ability to sound polished and commercially viable, without seeming artistically tentative or compromised, is an impressive stunt to pull off.
The absolute diversity of the moody, bass, drum and guitar driven “I Know”, and the ominous synth waves of the expansive “Stallion” perfectly encapsulates The Jon Johns boldly contrasting approach to their music. The sense of evolving song structures, dynamics, and textures is what makes this band so entirely captivating.
“Na Na Song” is a microcosm of the kind of diversity that pervades the “Road Trip Mixtape”. A track with a bass pulse as impellent and hypnotic as anything else you’re about to hear this year. “Play The Game” closes the recording with a multiplied kaleidoscope urgency to that which opened it.
For a two-man unit like The Jon Johns, studio wizardry is helpful in both widening the mixtape’s general scope, and highlighting songs one at a time. But, ultimately, it’s their adventurous attitude that will bring excitement to the airwaves. With that in mind, we have no idea what their next album will sound like, but it’s impossible to not be excited to hear what comes next.