by Joey Molloy
Connan Mockasin’s fourth album Jassbusters is a polished, soft rock album that’s great for life’s mellow moments. The smooth guitar, quirky vocals, and callbacks to 70’s AM radio rock are all in full effect. It’s a formula Mockasin has been working to perfect for years now, and this time he succeeds thanks to dreamy production and help from additional musicians. The record contains eight songs and runs 35 minutes. In the short runtime, Mockasin tries to pack in as much quality as possible. Despite his efforts, the album has dull moments. Every track is hypnotic, but most sound the same.
My biggest critique, however, is Connan’s attempt to tell an overarching story. He claims the concept of Jassbusters has been in the works for well over twenty years. Mockasin markets Jassbusters as a concept album chronicling the relationship between a high school teacher and a student, although the lyrics only vaguely support this. The lore surrounding the album is intriguing but weighs it down with an unrealized, overly ambitious vision. Despite the album’s hollow story, it still has its fair share of terrific tracks and sonic cohesion.
The pre-release single ‘Conn Con Was Impatient’ was an immediate success with its catchy vocal and instrumental melodies. Mockasin’s guitar glides all over the place, a style he and Mac Demarco pioneered in the early 2010’s. That trademark carries Jassbusters. ‘Momo’s’, a track featuring a standout vocal performance from James Blake, breathes air into the album. Blake’s deep voice cuts through the mix and contrasts wonderfully with Mockasin’s higher register. The album finishes strong with its final two tracks: ‘Sexy Man’ is one of the more unique songs with its funky groove, and ‘Les Be Honest’ closes the record with layers of ambient synths and vocal harmonies comparable to Beach House.
I think the record succeeds, but not in the way it intends to. This is without question one of the most relaxed records I’ve ever heard, and when I say relaxed I don’t mean lazy. The meticulous production and songwriting prove that. But it’s not the artsy concept album about tainted love Mockasin envisioned. The narrative is barely present, and off-putting when it is. Give Jassbusters a listen on your morning walk to class, at a lowkey hangout session, or even on a date when you want to keep it cool. It’s in these instances that Mockasin’s vision meets its full potential.