Apr 16, 2021
By Caleb Campbell
Photography by JJ Weihl
After many years and four albums with the German indie band Fenster, Jonathan Jarzyna took on the moniker John Moods and shared his full-length solo debut in 2018, The Essential John Moods. John has since returned with his sophomore record, So Sweet So Nice, which he is releasing as two separate EPs, So Sweet and So Nice, before following with a full-length vinyl release later this year. John has now shared the first of the planned diptych, So Sweet, out now via Arbutus Records.
So Sweet finds John Moods going deeper into the AM radio pop world he first explored with The Essential John Moods, delivering some of his most charming melodies, serene soundscapes, and jubilant instrumentation yet. However, rather than starting off with one of his upbeat dance tracks, John introduces the EP on a quieter note, exploring a meditative synth opening with “New Skin.” John is at his most peaceful on the EP here, his vocals resting over top of a pillowy bed of synths.
While the first track very much lives up to the So Sweet name, John quickly switches to more upbeat territory with “So Sweet So Nice,” a charming disco track covering an existential meditation on death with danceable rhythms. Meanwhile, “Without You” and “Talk To Me” return to John’s AM pop center, complete with warm euphoric melodies, upbeat instrumentation, and a climactic synth solo.
Finally, the EP winds to a close on understated notes with “Ordinary Magic” and “All You Gotta Do Is Wait.” The former is pure pop magic, featuring gorgeous pastoral melodies, rich gospel harmonies, and gently playful instrumentation, including an all too short sax solo. Alternatively, “All You Gotta Do Is Wait” takes a more winding psychedelic trip, ending the EP on a brilliantly offbeat dreamy waltz.
With So Sweet John places a fascinating contrast at the core of his planned pair of EPs, the pull between existential worry and celebratory abandon. The EP simultaneously is unsettled and carefree, alternating between tender dreamy soundscapes and relentlessly catchy pop heights. But uniting it all is John’s sharp ear for melody and jubilant explorations, making for some of his strongest work yet. Check out So Sweet below and read John’s exclusive track-by-track guide through the record.
A simple musical meditation around a theme composed in an almost trance-like state a couple of years back. It has a meandering melody and a special sentiment that stuck with me. It makes me think of several things. There is the main theme of death, of a character that’s realizing how funny all of life seems once it is over, themes of transformation, the shedding of skin like a reptile, and the comfort zone that is ever so hard to leave (“home like a snail in a shell”).
I opened many live performances with this song and found that it was a powerful opener that’s starting out tender and vulnerable instead of with a big bang.
So Sweet So Nice
This song centers around the main theme of the album. Here I’ve tried to make the happiest song possible about death and transience. It’s a celebration of life through the lens of mortality, a feeling of ecstatic aliveness in an upbeat bobbing disco song that addresses the passage of time and the blooming and decomposing of the entire natural world. The choruses sum up the message in a pretty straightforward way: “So sweet, so nice, everything is waiting to die / So sweet, so high nothing’s ever felt so alive”.
This song was inspired by Randy VanWarmer’s “Losing Out On Love’, a song I became obsessed with because of its overall euphoric feeling.
I wrote this song just when David Carriere from the great Canadian band TOPS happened to be in Berlin and I invited him to play on it. He instantly came up with the great addition of the guitar riff and we had a fun time performing it together once at a festival in Berlin.
I don’t really know what this song’s about. I get the feeling that it’s about missing a loved one but then again it feels like more than that.
I love that it’s got a one-note chorus and I enjoy the fact that it’s a sad and strange song that sounds really happy.
When will I know that I can’t know anything?
And how can I have you? when I can’t own anything
Everyone’ a fake, and everyone’s a friend of mine
Everyone’s afraid and everybody’s doing time.
Talk To Me
Growing up in the 90s and 00s I somehow developed a fascination for the yuppie wall street characters in movies, wearing gray suits on their way to work radiating the confidence and hope. After all, they were the leads of all those romantic comedies and the heroes of the capitalist system.
I am self-diagnosed with a mild case of “suit guy fantasy” as I call it. It is rooted in the envy of that young fresh guy in a suit. Not concerned with social injustice, ethics, or cosmic awareness, he’s always mentally stable and ready to make some money. A product of my subconscious being influenced by numerous fairytale-like movies and commercials.
This song sort of exorcises some of that sentiment. Aerial shots of New York, alarm clocks going off, steaming hot cups of coffees, armies of suits flooding the streets of midtown.
The lyrics of course go a little off the rails of your average rom-com song but who listens to the lyrics of songs anyway.
Knowing is the enemy of seeing
Scratch the itch but stop when it starts bleedin’ Is it joy? Or another toy?
Playing with the notes of my life.
This one’s got pretty eccentric instrumentation, that ranges from synth flute to saxophone, fuzz guitars, harp, piano, electric beat, you name it…
It’s about ordinary magic, the real magic, the magic of nature, the magic of life that we can become blind to. When you look again with new wonder, everything is magic, cells, particles, the wind, the stars, the moon, bugs, the day, the night, a thought, a dream, a tree. It is very easy to find it, once you start seeing it.
In a way what we refer to as magic are merely parlour tricks and everything outside of the magician’s realm is actually magical.
All You Gotta Do Is Wait
One of my favourite live takes on the album. The band was so present and focused here, really listening and leaving space. It’s an older song that I desperately needed to get out of my system. I like the image of a river taking you deeper and deeper into your mind like in a hypnosis. All the imagery is actually water related. A lake house, riding an underwater train and a river.
The river always makes me think of Hermann Hesse’s Siddartha because it really is at the center of his novel. At the end of his epic quest through many lives and to the brink of death, he finally finds the river. For the first time he manages to sit and listen and realizes the river contains all the wisdom and oneness of the world. He had already passed that river years ago as a young man not being able to listen to its message. I think of that very often.
Open the forgotten gate
Like a window to a lake on a foggy day