January 30, 2023

An Odd Little EP from Johnossi


While looking through some new music suggestions on Spotify, up popped the Swedish band Johnossi. Their music has a kind of late 80s/90s retro sound with elements of 80s roots and 90s alternative and a splash of indie rock. I was immediately reminded of some 90s Toronto bands like Lowest of the Low, Blue Rodeo (though less twangy), and Barenaked Ladies. But also, 80s jangle pop like Guadalcanal Diary or Hoodoo Gurus (which is quite twangy).

The specific suggestion was for an EP called Så Mycket Bättre 2022 – Tolkningarna which translates to So Much Better 2022 – The Interpretations (according to Google Translate at least). Some of the five songs were in English and others in Swedish. I assume it was Swedish because I don’t speak Swedish and Google could translate the names as if they were.

This was not a typical EP. The songs came from a Swedish reality TV show where bands play other bands music, hence “The Interpretations” part of the title. Apparently Johnossi was on season 13 of the show.

Interpretation barely defines what Johnossi has done to these songs. Transformation is more like it. For example, one of the songs, “Summer Rain” was written by Swedish folk singer Anna Ternheim. Her version is a bittersweet acoustic indie folk song, like a lightweight First Aid Kit.

The Johnossi version is utterly different. In their hands this simple folk tune becomes a driving rock song. It’s like Don Henley’s “Boys of Summer” mixed with Blue Rodeo’s “Lost Together”. Honestly, if I hadn’t dived into the credits and found it was an Anna Ternheim song, I would have argued that it simply couldn’t be. It was just too different.

The whole EP is like this. Songs that rock hard or songs that jangle but nothing like the source material. While it’s interesting to see what Johnossi has done with their source material, that’s not the reason to listen to this EP. Listen to it because it’s great music. It’s what good rock should be – interesting, accessible, high energy, and with enough of an emotional quotient to make you care.

It’s also why you want to listen to their own material. This is how Johnossi sounds and it’s a great sound. Their last album, 2022’s Mad Gone Wild, rocks pretty hard. I kept thinking, “this is what Sloan would have been like if they rocked harder and faster.” Or maybe the Kaiser Chiefs if they were still relevant. It’s a pity that they don’t aren’t mainstream here in the US. They’d have a lot of fans. So, spread the word.