Photo: Alex Free
JAWNY is an artist who has always strayed the line between comical and genius, birthing left field hits from infectious blends of pop, indie rock, and satirical wit. It is an approach whose intent has always been difficult to pin down, leaving listeners to decide for themselves if the Los Angeles-based artist is wearing his heart on his sleeve or simply taking each punch with stride. Nowhere does this feel more pronounced than on his latest EP, The Story of Hugo.
The six-track EP - two of which are interludes that serve to define the world of our titular hero - follows the same narrative thread set by his major label debut, For Abby. In our original review of For Abby, we described the mixtape as the "sonic equivalent of fumbling down your childhood sidewalk, 40 in hand, leaving the occasional drunk voicemail." If For Abby is JAWNY stumbling through heartbreak, The Story of Hugo is the origin story to our hero's inevitable tragically comic conclusion.
Framed as a loose concept EP, The Story of Hugo opens on "The Birth of Hugo," a skit that sees JAWNY fighting creative differences and stagnation with his management team and label. In classic JAWNY fashion, this scripted yet candid look behind the velvet curtain is soon buoyed by what sounds like a bargain store self-mantra cassette tape. It's a nostalgic intro that perfectly sets the tone for what's to come - a project rife with vulnerable moments of introspection and fantastical departures into JAWNY's twisted imagination.
Previously-released singles "Best Thing" and "Take It Back" play out like two sides of the same; the former arrives as a lovestruck anti-pop ballad while the latter marches forward as a dynamic 2000s-evoking break-up anthem. And while the shifting, unpredictability perfectly matches the tumultuous spirit of a temperamental relationship, there is a genuine beauty to be found here, like on the sweeping string arrangement that closes out "Tombstone Grey."
The concept album, or in this case EP, often feels like a long-forgotten art. It's not difficult to see why either, with more and more artists chasing out the momentary explosive success of a single viral single or moment. And it's exactly why, through all the self-parody and grand sonic diversions, The Story of Hugo stands as a daring project that sets JAWNY apart as an artist unafraid to take bold thematic risks.
Listen to The Story of Hugo below: