Junior Boys - It's All True
Back in 2009, I was a little harsh on the third album from Canadian electro duo Junior Boys; Begone Dull Care was a perfectly acceptable slice of alternative-styled pop that opted for the slow burn approach rather than balls-out beats. However, while it may have merited more praise than I cared to bestow, only a couple of songs continue to stand out a couple of years later with the album still best listened to almost as a mood piece powered by synths. Now, buoyed by critical accolades including a Juno win and a Grammy nomination, the Boys aka Jeremy Greenspan and Matt Didemus release their fourth album and it's the likeliest yet to move their offbeat so-called 'bedroom dance' into the charts.
Openers 'Itchy Fingers' and lead single 'Banana Ripple' bookend the album as cunningly crafted pieces of glitchy, twitchy electro-pop that Hot Chip might reject as too eccentric. The latter is especially winsome, and could be this year's breakout underground anthem (a la Yeasayer's 'O.N.E') if it weren't for its radio-unfriendly epic length; however, it would be a travesty to deconstruct these nine minutes into a neutered radio edit. The song never outstays its welcome, changing things up to ensure variation but never dropping the ball, thereby resulting in a constantly euphoric and rhythmic glitterball concoction that piques at eight minutes then winds down the album in style. However, while the album's first and last impressions are take-notice highlights, what comes between is as eclectic ever. Indeed, as soon as track two, the pace slows dramatically: 'Playtime' is a hushed, considered comedown after the upbeat intro, and sounds like 10cc's 'I'm Not in Love' reshaped into a slow dance for enamoured robots.
As on Begone Dull Care, the Boys are not about the quick-fix flashbang, demonstrating considerable skills in song craft rather than aiming squarely for the dancefloor. Despite this, the pairing of 'You'll Improve Me' and 'A Truly Happy Ending' perfectly occupies the spheres of both retro and shiny brand-new, showing the fingerprints of Prince and rearranging the barebones of lost 80s hits into a double-whammy of modernist pop. The translucent prettiness of 'The Reservoir' is a return to more experimental soundscaping, while 'Kick the Can' almost entirely eschews vocals in favour of a looping, dubby setup that entices but never enthralls. Greenspan's vocals are just as unpredictable, delivering both wordy sentiments and catchy hooks like 'ep's 'I love you so bad that I wanna repeat it' in alternately softly soulful or cooly chilly tones.
So, while their fourth outing is one that's hard to pigeonhole, it does strike a bolder impression than their previous album, which would have benefited from a highlight like 'Banana Ripple'. In a world now devoid of LCD Soundsystem, Junior Boys are very welcome whatever difficulties their output may present. Theirs is an approach to dance music that is as far removed from the increasingly over-subscribed David Guetta sound as possible, and can be counted alongside Yeasayer's Odd Blood and this year's Cut Copy release, In Ghost Colours, as recent longplayers that will reward electronic music fans who don't listen to the Top 40. 'It's All True' represents a graduation of sorts for Junior Boys, and that's truthfully no lie.