It´s September 26th and I´m too wound up to sleep. I need something to engage my mind for a good hour or so. This is as good a time for a writing project, as any.
I´m starting a new, occasional set of posts called “What I´m Obsessed With”. They may be of the time, they may be from sometime in the past. I´m hoping that they may provide some insight into my psyche. Not that you´d care, but since you´re here, let´s get started…
What I´m currently obsessed with: It´s All True by Junior Boys
Why: At this point in time, the Presets have taken over my MP3 listening pleasures, but until about a week ago, the latest album by Junior Boys defined my summer.
This album was actually released over a year ago, but given how crazy my life was then, I didn´t pay all that much attention, when it came out. Otherwise, I would have been all over it. Instead, earlier this summer, I perused JB´s Last.fm page and spotted a bunch of new songs in the “most-played” section. Intrigued, I fired up Spotify, did a search, found the new album, created a playlist from it, and was blown away.
Honestly, I was not a huge fan of JB´s previous release Begone Dull Care. There were several tracks on it that I liked, but it mostly came off to me as 70´s MOR-influenced schlock, the high concept regarding a tribute to Canadian animator Norman MacLaren a seemingly rather bizarre front for vocalist/main songwriter/lyricist Jeremy Greenspan’s experiences of being all loved up, at the time. The last half of that album, in fact, could have soundtracked an old porn film, it was so cheesy. So, I wasn´t expecting much, this time around.
Two years later, and, according to the content of It´s All True, all that love is gone. Replacing it are naggingly catchy blips and beeps, insistent bass lines, well placed Chinese instrumentation (Mr. Greenspan spent several months in China recording musicians for use on the album), and lots and lots of bitter references to fakery. Again, the concept presented in the album`s promotion is that it was inspired by Orson Welles and his use of fraud, visual and otherwise, in such films as Citizen Kane.
Nice try, Jeremy. You and your broken heart are not fooling us, this time.
But that´s OK. This past summer, for very personal reasons, I felt every single word and syllable he sang, from the frantic Itchy Fingers to the glorious Banana Ripple. This was the first JB album where every single aspect of the journey meant something, including the throwaway experimental track Kick The Can. Every single track was relevant. It´s hard growing up. It was just nice, at this point in my life, to have found someone else who appeared to be doing the same, and in who´s experience, as a fan, I could share and appreciate.
Plus, the music is amazing. It´s All True is the sound of two guys feeling comfortable enough in their own skin to improve on their past, rather than jolt their future. The 70´s soft rock/jazz influence, for example, which marred their last album for me was still there, but was a lot more restrained and put to better use (Check out Jeremy channeling his inner Michael Franks on the seminally playful, poppy A Truly Happy Ending). You have the almost sinister techno funk of You´ll Improve Me, the 10cc-ish Playtime, the effects that accentuate the super funky Second Chance, the noisy yet smooth, emotional ep where Jeremy finally drops the fakery concept, stops waiting to exhale and pleads “I love you so bad and I´m gonna repeat it”. Plus Jeremy´s singing is better than ever. Not that he was bad before, but all that bedroom breathiness he exhibited on the first three albums would get annoying after a while. On this album, the vocals are clearer, crisper, more assured. No more Mister Bedroom Voice. Funny how the end of a relationship cures that.
But the piece d´resistance awaits at the end.
Banana Ripple is 9 minutes and 15 seconds of the most jubilant ride through the last thirty years of dance music one could experience. After experiencing the bitter pills swallowed in the last 8 tracks, Jeremy lets loose with a glorious falsetto as he finally lets go of whatever, or whomever, had him by the throat for so long. His partner Matt Didemus unleashes some incredibly provocative production throughout the track, with no less than three “drops” throughout, including that drivng end, in which the organ, guitar and bass drum are highlighted to full effect.
I may take a break from this album for a bit, as I´ve played it so much that I needed an intervention (which the Presets kindly provided), but I will surely return to this record time and time again. Heartbreak rarely sounded so good.
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