Music

Junip: Junip

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


Junip

Junip

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

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.

6

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
Amazon

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
7
TV

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less
9

Here comes another Kompakt Pop Ambient collection to make life just a little more bearable.

Another (extremely rough) year has come and gone, which means that the German electronic music label Kompakt gets to roll out their annual Total and Pop Ambient compilations for us all.

Keep reading... Show less
8

Winner of the 2017 Ameripolitan Music Award for Best Rockabilly Female stakes her claim with her band on accomplished new set.

Lara Hope & The Ark-Tones

Love You To Life

Label: Self-released
Release Date: 2017-08-11
Amazon
iTunes

Lara Hope and her band of roots rockin' country and rockabilly rabble rousers in the Ark-Tones have been the not so best kept secret of the Hudson Valley, New York music scene for awhile now.

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

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

rating-image