Review : Junior Boys - It's All True
PitchforkJunior Boys started out making ridiculously complex music that had the intimate feel of a bedroom-based indie project. They'd mastered the intricate rhythmic syncopations of UK garage and Timbaland-style R&B, genres that had turned inventive and impossibly tricky rhythm programming into a game of pop oneupsmanship. Which is hardly the sort of thing that you'd want to hear an amateur's take on. But JBs' music was presented as if it were something fragile, homespun, made on a shoestring, full of negative space where the pop fizziness should be. It added an interesting, affecting friction to a sound that had defined glossy marquee pop around the turn of the millennium, like the difference between a love song written to please millions and one aimed at a special someone.
Pretty quickly, though, on 2006's So This Is Goodbye and especially 2009's Begone Dull Care, the JBs music started sounding like a million bucks, whatever it cost to make. This wasn't necessarily a bad thing. There had always been an element of slick soulful 1980s synth-pop in their sound, and when they jettisoned the new millennium R&B touches, it was shocking and enjoyable to find out they actually had the production chops to mimic that 1980s opulence. But what about that one-on-one intimacy that had originally made them stand out? In that sense, It's All True sounds like the album the Junior Boys have been moving toward their whole career. It's got the same low-key mixtape-from-a-lover charm as Last Exit, but sacrifices none of the appealing slickness of their last few albums....full text
SpinSince 2004's Last Exit, Junior Boys' main man Jeremy Greenspan has couched his plaintive voice in various strains of modern electronic music, flitting between 2-step and synth-pop, with diminishing returns. But after a sojourn through China, Greenspan sounds rejuvenated, moving from the tricky pulse of "Kick the Can" to the slinky beat of "You'll Improve Me." There are moments of tedium (the deceivingly titled "Playtime"), but on nine-minute closer "Banana Ripple," Greenspan's falsetto dovetails with a silvery guitar line and melodic progression worthy of New Order....full text
ObscuresoundJunior Boys’ grasp of electronica is the farthest thing from linear, as has been shown from day one with their 2004 debut Last Exit. Dance-ready, electro-pop gems like “High Come Down” and Birthday” incorporated seamlessly alongside darkly brooding retrospectives like “More Than Real” and “Teach Me How to Fight”, helping turn Last Exit into one of the most revered electronic albums of the past decade. The Canadian duo followed it up with two albums that explored similar territory, though with a different stylistic flair each time. So This Is Goodbye featured songs that blended pop smarts with ramped-up structural intricacies, and Begone Dull Care played tribute to the fluidity of animation with free-flowing and vaporous pop efforts – some of the songs a bit too ductile for their own good. Their fourth full-length, It’s All True, is the most impulsively pop-friendly of the bunch, even at times resembling more conventional electro-pop acts like Hall & Oates and Chromeo. There’s nothing wrong with that though; many will consider it a step-up from Begone Dull Care, if only for the fact that certain songs on that were overly busy – like if the duo were holding their breaths. With It’s All True, they have exhaled. Stylistic relief is one way to describe it; they sound like they are having more carefree fun than ever.
Their fourth album’s sequencing is far from flawless, but it’s hard to imagine a better opener than “Itchy Fingers”. Static-y dance-pop synths stab incessantly over a mellow electro-bass procession, with Jeremy Greenspan suavely preparing for the exhilarating chorus. Led by a trickling synth arpeggio, which evolves fully from the synth stabs, it is one of the many outstanding hooks within It’s All True. Even aside from its killer hook, “Itchy Fingers” is a generally flawless opener – especially because it serves as an apt precursor to the album’s other songs. The mid-point variation, with a keyboard mimicking traditional Asian string instruments (much like Jordan Rudess’ electronic demos or Gorillaz’s Schtung Chinese New Year remix), is an infectious little interlude that preps for one last go-around. It works well as a lead-in to the song’s finale, when the whirring arpeggio becomes more prevalent. “So patient, so kind, it’s never easy to tell,” he now sings with more clarity. “If you’re playing with my mind, you hide your itchy fingers well.”
“Itchy Fingers” is far from the ambition Junior Boys have showcased before, and in that way it serves as a precursor to the more lighthearted and accessible direction on It’s All True, Junior Boys’ “summer album” if one was ever forced to pair up their releases with seasons. In that sense, the duo seem to be traversing into warmer climates with each release, from the icy pop of Last Exit to the ’80s-infused sunshine-pop of It’s All True, which explores influences as far off as Talk Talk and Hall & Oates. The exploratory nature of Junior Boys showcased on previous releases is less frequent on It’s All True, even if songs like “Playtime”, Kick the Can”, and in some ways the airy elegance of “The Reservoir” carry experimental tendencies. Percussive involvement and variation is also more restrained on most songs, with the backdrop often more conventional than before. Even though this is sacrificial of one of the duo’s greatest strengths, they expose new abilities of developmental pop smarts and key-laden deviations in the process....full text
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