Junior Boys - "Banana Ripple"
Canadian electropop duo Junior Boys offer subtle pleasures in a landscape dominated by a more-is-more philosophy. Their music is as much defined by what it’s not – overstuffed and fussy – as by what it is – an antidote to the carnival music of today’s popsmiths.
A typical Junior Boys song has as its backbone a well-built hook with little more encumbering it. Jeremy Greenspan’s vocal melodies, which he often sings with a whisper, breathe and extend, usually over the course of five minutes or more; Matt Didemus, on the other hand, refrains from adding a single background element that upstages the songs’ star performer.
After a regular diet of tracks upon tracks of instrumentation, the merciful reprieve of minimalism and the listless boredom of repetitiveness can sometimes seem indistinguishable. Junior Boys’ fourth LP It’s All True stumbles between the two, and into the wrong side too often. But even the sturdiest listener deserves a calm bench after enduring the nauseous corkscrew thrills of modern pop music.
It’s All True begins and ends with its best tracks, and follows a U-shaped path of quality in between. Opener “Itchy Fingers” inhales a nervous and twitchy verse and exhales its chorus with relief. Atop, harp-like glissandos and synth-tones provide a sonic canopy for a silky r&b melody. The blissful, nine-minute disco track “Banana Ripple” closes the album with confetti and streamers. It’s another example of Junior Boys’ knack for executing bigness with grace, an elephant walking a tightrope. Like Four Tet’s Kieran Hebden, Junior Boys make electronics radiate with warmth, as evidenced on the unhurried tracks “Playtime” and “The Reservoir.”
Evaluating It’s All True can seem like an act of mathematical computation. Does the pointed kiss-off of “Second Chance” counterbalance the pedestrian “A Truly Happy Ending?” Does the ropy and chiming “ep” compensate for the plodding “Kick the Can?” Does it matter, when at the end of this pop calculus you’re left so satisfied by right-hand side of the equals sign? Nope.