Jupiter One: Sunshower

Jupiter One's second album has some great songs, but it also gets mired in mediocre '70s-style pop here and there.

Jupiter One


Label: Rykodisc
US Release Date: 2009-09-15
UK Release Date: 2009-11-23

Jupiter One's self-titled album was an unexpected surprise. Full of pop gems yet stylistically diverse, it was one of 2008's stronger debuts. Except that it was actually a reissue; the band originally self-released the album all the way back in 2005. So it's not a shock that the follow-up, Sunshower, is hitting shelves a short 12 months later. Sunshower shows that the band continues to have a knack for a catchy melody, but it's a knack they don't employ on every song, to their detriment.

The album opens with "Volcano", a great big chunk of silly power-pop. Swirling synths and tight, harmonized, "Ahhs" in the introduction give way to understated guitar and lead singer K Ishibashi's vocals. Lyrically, the song is a narrative that involves super powers, a volcanic eruption, a girlfriend, and the girlfriend's angry father. A father who is more interested in telling the protagonist why he's not good enough for his daughter than in heeding the protagonist's warning to "Get out / Get out / Get out of the house". "Volcano" is one of those songs that gets stuck in your head instantly and has you singing along by the end of your first listen. The second track, "Lights Go Out", is a bit harder-rocking, with lyrics about a man who can't get over seeing his ex-girlfriend with a new guy. Ishibashi shout-singing in the refrain gives the song a bit of an edge and contrasts nicely to the opener.

Third track "Flaming Arrow" features some very nice twisted lyrics about a man getting revenge on his ex by setting her apartment building on fire. Maybe primary songwriter and guitarist Zac Colwell had some relationship issues to work out while working on these songs. It starts well enough, with a laid-back, acoustic guitar and organ-driven feel. But about a minute in, the song bursts into a huge, schmaltzy slice of '70's-style AM pop, complete with unnecessary strings and lighter-than-air clean electric guitar. This shift is disarming and annoying and it pretty much sabotages the song. The next song, "Made in a Day", is perfectly pleasant, but almost completely forgettable. But just as you think that Jupiter One is losing their focus, though, out comes "Anna." This is the album's other highlight, a song that mines the '70s much more successfully than "Flaming Arrow". It features a huge chorus with harmony vocals and great use of a '70s-style distorted guitar tone, with subtle keyboard washes in the background.

But then the album really does lose its focus. The second half of the disc features a weak, disco-beat ballad in "Simple Stones", a limp slow-dance song without any hooks ("Strange Teacher"), and a boring tune that completely wastes the great title "High Plains Drifter Finds the Oracle at Delphi". All is not lost, though, as Sunshower does manage a few more gems. "Find Me a Place" is a gentle song by Ishibashi that has strong melodies in its verses and chorus. Ishibashi also writes the album's closer, "People in the Mountain, People in the Ocean", a simple, spare track that is mostly just vocals and acoustic guitar which highlights his strong falsetto. The only rocker on side two, as it were, "Come On", also works very well. While not quite up to the level of "Volcano" or "Anna", it has another strong chorus that marries a catchy melody to a strong backbeat.

It's too bad that Jupiter One can't seem to come up with a great melody every time out, because when they do the songs really pop. And when they don't, well, they just sound flat. The band's first album had some of these same issues, but it was so ridiculously front-loaded with good songs that is wasn't as noticeable. That album also traded heavily in sounds from early '80s new wave. Sunshower trades the '80s for the '70s, but the results are similar. If there's a strong hook, the song works, but if there isn't one, the band isn't musically interesting enough to make up for it. Still, when Jupiter One are good, they're very, very good. There's enough high quality material here to make the album worth a listen. And at a brisk 38 minutes, Sunshower doesn't last long enough to wear out its welcome.


To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.

Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

Keep reading... Show less

The World of Captain Beefheart: An Interview with Gary Lucas and Nona Hendryx

Gary Lucas and Nona Hendryx (photo © Michael DelSol courtesy of Howlin' Wuelf Media)

Guitarist and band leader Gary Lucas and veteran vocalist Nona Hendryx pay tribute to one of rock's originals in this interview with PopMatters.

From the opening bars of "Suction Prints", we knew we had entered The World of Captain Beefheart and that was exactly where we wanted to be. There it was, that unmistakable fast 'n bulbous sound, the sudden shifts of meter and tempo, the slithery and stinging slide guitar in tandem with propulsive bass, the polyrhythmic drumming giving the music a swing unlike any other rock band.

Keep reading... Show less

From Haircut 100 to his own modern pop stylings, Nick Heyward is loving this new phase of his career, experimenting with genre with the giddy glee of a true pop music nerd.

In 1982, Nick Heyward was a major star in the UK.

As the leader of pop sensations Haircut 100, he found himself loved by every teenage girl in the land. It's easy to see why, as Haircut 100 were a group of chaps so wholesome, they could have stepped from the pages of Lisa Simpson's "Non-Threatening Boys" magazine. They resembled a Benetton knitwear advert and played a type of quirky, pop-funk that propelled them into every transistor radio in Great Britain.

Keep reading... Show less

This book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Marcelino Truong launched his autobiographical account of growing up in Saigon during the Vietnam War with the acclaimed graphic novel Such a Lovely Little War: Saigon 1961-63, originally published in French in 2012 and in English translation in 2016. That book concluded with his family's permanent relocation to London, England, as the chaos and bloodshed back home intensified.

Now Truong continues the tale with Saigon Calling: London 1963-75 (originally published in French in 2015), which follows the experiences of his family after they seek refuge in Europe. It offers a poignant illustration of what life was like for a family of refugees from the war, and from the perspective of young children (granted, Truong's family were a privileged and upper class set of refugees, well-connected with South Vietnamese and European elites). While relatives and friends struggle to survive amid the bombs and street warfare of Vietnam, the displaced narrator and his siblings find their attention consumed by the latest fashion and music trends in London. The book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Keep reading... Show less

Canadian soul singer Elise LeGrow shines on her impressive interpretation of Fontella Bass' classic track "Rescue Me".

Canadian soul singer Elise LeGrow pays tribute to the classic Chicago label Chess Records on her new album Playing Chess, which was produced by Steve Greenberg, Mike Mangini, and the legendary Betty Wright. Unlike many covers records, LeGrow and her team of musicians aimed to make new artistic statements with these songs as they stripped down the arrangements to feature leaner and modern interpretations. The clean and unfussy sound allows LeGrow's superb voice to have more room to roam. Meanwhile, these classic tunes take on new life when shown through LeGrow's lens.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.