There is no musician working today that epitomizes New Jersey better than John Cozz. His is the voice that we need right now with the uncertainty in the air these last few weeks. It is a voice that is heartfelt, anxious, questioning, happy, intelligent and fun. I have seem him live many times and he is a highlight on whatever bill he might be on. A modern troubadour right from the soul of the Garden State, his new EP Just Existing is Okay could not have come at a better time.
Opener “Yellow Curbs // Styertowne” reflects on an easier time of life when your biggest concerns were getting lunch with friends and skateboarding around a parking lot. In these trying times it is no fault to look back with fondness being a “teenager in New Jersey.” It is a sparse track with Cozz singing along with his acoustic guitar which reminds me of The Front Bottoms circa their self-titled debut album. The next track “Who’s Going to Take Over Jeopardy?” is already a live favorite and takes a look at the comfort we all find in traditions as well as how we deal with mortality. In this case the tradition is of gathering around the television to watch a beloved game show. “Alex Trebek was always there for me” Cozz sings while hoping no one takes over the host duties to ruin a perfect thing.
“Railroad Tracks (Half Mast)” is a “Subterranean Homesick Blues” paced song that like the Dylan tune takes aim at some of the issues of the day. Even the video references the early Dylan promotional clip with digital cue cards. Pay attention or you may miss references to iPhones, the NRA and electronic cigarettes. The dreamy, trippy “The World’s Changing I’m the Same” find Cozz trying to keep the bad thoughts away while longing to see that someone special again. Closer and title track “Just Existing is Okay!” reassures us all that sometimes just being human and alive is fine. Inhale, exhale, breathe.
At just under 10 minutes Just Existing is Okay! is a quick listen but a thoroughly enjoyable one. The EP isn’t scared to look at anxiousness, uncertainty, death and change. But the record is also infused with optimism. It is a cautious optimism but it is there keeping us hopeful.
Just Existing is Okay! was recorded by Max Rauch at Domestic Bliss Recording Studio for Pizza Bagel Records and is available only on Bandcamp. Today would be a wonderful day to download the EP and throw John Cozz a few bucks as Bandcamp is giving artists 100% of purchases to help musicians during the The Covid-19 pandemic.
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