Mark Johns’ debut EP is gloomy electro-pop ecstasy
Both “Molino” and “Wait Till Tmrw,” the first and last tracks on Mark Johns’ debut EP, Molino, begin with nothing more than soft synth chords to compliment Johns’ mystifying voice. It’s not a voice that belts, not a voice that flourishes or draws attention to itself. Rather, it carries both a gentle tenderness and an undeniable weight — an openness and emotional presence that give it an arresting sense of honesty.
It’s this sense of honesty that saves the EP from some of the pitfalls that might have sunk it. Molino is not exactly happy listening. It’s full of loneliness and heartbreak, a lingering gloom that could easily have been overdone and fallen into self indulgence. But Johns keeps the project grounded in her remarkable voice and crafty songwriting, and the EP manages to wear its heart on its sleeve without ever succumbing to melodrama or excess.
Musically, the EP is a soothing synthesis of electro, downtempo, and R&B, maintaining an aesthetic consistency that makes things blend together without becoming repetitive. The production is relatively straightforward, but it serves the mood and vibe of Johns’ lyrics well. Each of the EP’s six songs has its own character, and from the spaciousness of the title track, to the steady throb of “Chapstick,” and the syncopated groove of “Before You,” it contains enough variations on its central theme to keep the listener interested.
Molino is undeniably pop music, but it’s pop music with heart and brains. Jonhs sings catchy, radio friendly melodies, but fills them with lyrics that stand an obvious notch above the typical Top 40 hit. The result is an EP that’s accessible to almost everyone, from high-minded aficionados to casual listeners.