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Posturing like he doesn’t fuck with you, Jean Dawson makes up the somewhat misleading cover of his first full EP, Bad Sports. A cursory glance and one would assume some dark industrial beats, possibly with some screamed vocals layered on top, but what’s inside is almost none of that and nearly everything else.

Aside from a handful of singles, Jean’s output is minimal. The Bandcamp blurb provides his backstory; raised in Tijuana, crossing the border to attend school, Jean is the product of multiple worlds and cultures. This divide is represented in the music less as an “I’m always lost” statement and more of “I’m always home.”

Pinpointing one genre is reductive for this release, with the most signature track to represent the nature being “Blame By Me,” where Jean code-switches from section to section at the drop of a hat. What starts as a tender Spanish-spoken ballad in the vein of Cuco and contemporaries goes into an indie spoken-word section, eventually dropping into some trap vocal rhythms over a post-punk drum beat.

At its core, it’s an indie emo pop album. The harmonies, lyrics, and attitude all scream “teenage feelings,” but it’s structured with this poetic emotional flair that keeps it from falling into the more superficial label of “pop-punk.” It’s the sound of hitting up three venues and a house show in one night and ending up in a friend’s room, peppered with sounds of conversations between various groups, air horns, and fireworks.

Even though it’s an indie EP, the usual half-hearted residue of DIY isn’t present on this release. You’re not gonna hear any analog-worship-for-the-sake-of-it and disregard for proper mixing. Tracks like “Zero%” and “Ssick Girl Online” contain enough production tricks and thoughtful arrangement to fit into a handful of Teen Suicide albums. The lyrics on this album are heartfelt, yearning, and of course youthful.

Jean knows what he’s doing on this record. The songs are very well-crafted, bringing solid hooks with this tender composition and upbeat driving rhythms that keep it interesting amongst the darker and more experimental moments on the album. Songs like “Napster” and “Antiwarp” are well thought-out but don’t come off as contrived in the grand scheme of the album. Put out through the Los Angeles-based Terrible Records, this album is wholly representative of the Southern California “alt” scene of DIY shows and the genreless, ardent attitude that surrounds it.

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