Junip: Junip

Like José González's voice, Junip's self-titled second full-length rarely rises above atmospheric soft rock adequacy.



Label: City Slang / Mute
US Release Date: 2013-04-23
UK Release Date: 2013-04-22
Artist website

Although Junip insists they are a band first and foremost, they are probably José González’s band for most of the world. Partly that’s because his international solo fame with 2005’s Veneer and 2007’s In Our Nature yielded the surplus spotlight they needed, after 12 years of existence, to release their debut full-length Fields in 2010 and have anybody care. Partly, that’s because of González’s voice. His epicene pipes never surpass anonymous soft rock adequacy, and yet something arresting really is there – arresting enough, at least, to land the humble Swede’s bare-bones cover of “Heartbeats” (credit fellow humble Swedes the Knife) a Sony advert.

And partly, Junip is José González’s band because the band is more than happy to let González – as singer and songwriter and, to a lesser extent, guitarist – take the fore. It’s not that he does the heavy lifting, it’s that there’s no heavy lifting to do: on their several EPs, Fields, and now Junip, Junip commits to a kind of coffee-shop psychedelia, in which students of Nuggets buy minivans and behave themselves. Whatever heady flourishes drummer Elias Araya and organist Tobias Winterkorn do work up never divert González’s MOR navigation. His singing splits the difference between Stevie Nicks and Nick Drake, and the band’s sound follows suit; if Junip leans in the direction of Fleetwood Mac’s slick pop affect, like Pink Moon, it’s still quiet no matter how loud you crank the volume.

That prevailing gentleness may cause their flirtation with grander ambitions to catch you off-guard. Opening track “Line of Fire” seems strategically sequenced to do exactly that. It begins fully formed with a synth sustain and a light flamenco rhythm. “What would you do / If it all came back to you?” González asks as his guitar wraps softly around the beat. “Each crest of each wave / Bright as lightning.” A couple verses later, Araya’s snare asserts itself, and the stakes rise: “Put to the test / Would you step back from the line of fire?” When the chorus kicks in, so does Winterkorn’s cresting Moog, giving the song unannounced grandiosity. Out of the Trojan horse of Latin-tinged easy listening comes a soaring stadium anthem on the order of U2 and Coldplay. In contrast to Bono or Chris Martin, though, González matches symphonic sweep with blunt realism: “No one else around you / No one to understand you / No one to hear your calls / Look through all your dark corners / You’re back up against the wall/Step back from the line of fire.” It makes for an effective stirring of the spirit, partly by refusing to condescend to glib earnestness, but mostly by blossoming out of such an unassuming and, frankly, unpromising beginning.

The rest of Junip never quite matches its first track. The Afro-tinged “Walking Lightly” comes close, but González’s monotonous, repetitive vocal holds Araya’s robust polyrhythms at arm’s length, as if he’s much too cool to dance. Similarly, “Your Life Your Call” is aloof from its own elastic bassline, and González’s appeal to either “stand up or enjoy your fall” teeters uncertainly between irony and candor. “Villain” drowns his voice in reverbed, percussive jamming, suggesting what Junip might sound like as an instrumental post-rock outfit, but at just barely two minutes, it’s little more than a lark. In its atmospheric, likeably modest way, so is Junip, which faces the line of fire, only to step back.





Masaki Kobayashi's 'Kwaidan' Horror Films Are Horrifically Beautiful

The four haunting tales of Masaki Kobayashi's Kwaidan are human and relatable, as well as impressive at a formal and a technical level.


The Top 10 Thought-Provoking Science Fiction Films

Serious science fiction often takes a backseat to the more pulpy, crowdpleasing genre entries. Here are 10 titles far better than any "dogfight in space" adventure.


'The Kill Chain': Why America Might Lose Its Next Big War

Christian Brose's defense-nerd position paper, The Kill Chain, inadvertently reveals that the Pentagon's problems (complacency, inertia, arrogance) reflect those of the country at large.


2006's 'Flat-Pack Philosophy' Saw Buzzcocks Determined to Build Something of Quality

With a four-decade career under their belt, on the sixth disc in the new box-set Sell You Everything, it's heartening to see Buzzcocks refusing to settle for an album that didn't try something new.


'Lie With Me': Beauty, Love and Toxic Masculinity in the Gay '80s

How do we write about repression and toxic masculinity without valorizing it? Philippe Besson's Lie With Me is equal parts poignant tribute and glaring warning.


Apparat's 'Soundtrack: Capri-Revolution' Stands Alone As a Great Ambient Experience

Apparat's (aka Sascha Ring) re-imagined score from Mario Martone's 2018 Capri-Revolution works as a fine accompaniment to a meditational flight of fancy.


Chouk Bwa and the Ångströmers Merge Haitian Folk and Electronic Music on 'Vodou Alé'

Haitian roots music meets innovative electronics on Chouk Bwa and the Ångströmers' Vodou Alé.

My Favorite Thing

Weird and Sweet, Riotous and Hushed: The Beatles' 'The White Album'

The Beatles' 'The White Album' is a piece of art that demonstrates how much you can stretch, how far you can bend, how big you really are. The album is deeply weird. It has mass. It has its own weather.


Sarah Jarosz Finds Inspiration in Her Texas Roots on 'World on the Ground'

By turning to her roots in central Texas for inspiration on World on the Ground, Sarah Jarosz has crafted some of her strongest songs yet.


Hinds' 'The Prettiest Curse' Is One of Victory

On The Prettiest Curse, Hinds create messy pop music that captures the vibrancy of youth without being childish.


12 Essential Performances from New Orleans' Piano "Professors"

New Orleans music is renowned for its piano players. Here's a dozen jams from great Crescent City keyboardists, past and present, and a little something extra.


Jess Williamson Reimagines the Occult As Source Power on 'Sorceress'

Folk singer-songwriter, Jess Williamson wants listeners to know magic is not found in tarot cards or mass-produced smudge sticks. Rather, transformative power is deeply personal, thereby locating Sorceress as an indelible conveyor of strength and wisdom.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.