If I had my way, this review would simple. In a word: Perfection. Sadly, Iâ€™m sure the editors would have something snippy to say about that (fascists), so allow me to flesh this one out.
The boys of RÃ¶yksopp have been hard at work over the past three years conjuring up their third major album, Junior. Like a Nordic creation of Frankenstein proportions (Iâ€™ll allow time to envision the monster as a blonde), the album operates as a complex series of bits and pieces mixed together, pasting together the moody beats of Melody AM with the tenderest bits of pop-mindedness from The Understanding.
To do so, the duo have enlisted a superstar cast of Swedish chanteuses, including Lykke Li, Robyn, and Karin Dreijer (as well as fellow Norde Anneli Drecker)â€”a line-up indie-licious enough to make the pants of the Pitchfork crew grow even tighter at the waist.
With a burst of giggles, RÃ¶yksopp bounces into Junior with the mindless glee-fest that is their first single, â€œHappy Up Here.â€ Ironically, itâ€™s also the albumâ€™s weakest momentâ€”not quite an instrumental, not yet a full fledged song. Sure, itâ€™s got all the makings of a RÃ¶yksopp track (looped beats and breathy lyrics), but itâ€™s mainly a teaser for things to come.
Thatâ€™s probably why â€œThe Girl And The Robotâ€ follows shortly thereafter. Undoubtedly one of the coolest songs Robyn has recorded in recent time (though letâ€™s face it, she hasnâ€™t truly recorded anything new in the past five years), the song is a stomping, stuttering 21st century upgrade of a classic torch song: â€œFell asleep again in front of MTV / God, Iâ€™m down at the bottom / No oneâ€™s singing songs for me / Iâ€™m in love with a robot.â€ Then again, has there ever been a song involving robot love that hasnâ€™t proven itself entirely amazing? Doubt it.
After comes â€œVision One,â€ a song Iâ€™m still holding responsible for no less than three slipped discs in my neck. Why? â€œVision Oneâ€ happens to be a cover of a track the group first remixed in 2005 sung by a ridiculously under-appreciated J-Pop artist named Eri Nobuchika. Hearing those opening notes re-imagined through bright piano melody and some lo-fi electronica for the very time, my head whipped forward faster than I could shriek â€œOh my God, itâ€™s â€˜SING A SONG.â€™â€ As a result, Iâ€™m still healing.
â€œLet evil ways caress our smile, the cities are dying / As we watch it fall into a modern state, a modern time,â€ Anneli Drecker goes on to declare as the world around her plummets into the depths of misery. Looking for a distraction from the crumbling economy? Youâ€™re probably listening to the wrong song.
In fact, as delightfully â€œpopâ€ as RÃ¶yksopp may claim this album may be, itâ€™s sure depressingâ€”if weâ€™re not listening to Lykke Li sighing away memories of a lost love with â€œMiss It So Much,â€ weâ€™ve got the boys themselves throwing their hands up in a cry of resignation in the final moment of the album, â€œItâ€™s What I Wantâ€: â€œItâ€™s what I want thatâ€™s easy / Itâ€™s getting it thatâ€™s complicated.â€
Still, everythingâ€™s not so dire. And by â€œnot so dire,â€ I mean â€œvaguely homicidal.â€ Case in point: The albumâ€™s shining moment; the Anneli Drecker led â€œYou Donâ€™t Have A Clue.â€
â€œWeâ€™re meant to be one, I know we are,â€ Drecker croons along a lush set of stringed electronica and choir voices, â€œIf I am the sky, then you are my star.â€ Sweet, right? Well keep listening, and tell me this doesnâ€™t go from lovey-dovey to stalker-friendly in a matter of minutes: â€œBut you donâ€™t have a clue / This party hasnâ€™t ended yet / Not for me and you.â€ Yeah, Iâ€™d say weâ€™ve got a creeper on our hands.
And so the album trudges on, an eclectic helping of lyrical craft and well-produced beats ready to appeal to listeners of all genuses and genresâ€”â€œSmart Pop,â€ as I like to refer to it.
Junior is in many respects a musical triumph; an eclectic collection of breathy chanteuses and guttural vocalists all set to the tune of brooding synthesizers and geeky computer blips and bleeps. Presenting their most accessible, instant, and engaging album yet, RÃ¶yksopp is one of the very few, truly legitimate artists still standing on the frontlines fighting in the name of all things pop. After all, theyâ€™ve already just released the best album of the first quarter, as well as a capable contender for the best of â€˜09.
That is, until Juniorâ€™s companion piece, Senior, hits shelves later this fall.
Click here to visit the band’s MySpace, and click below to purchase Junior NOW!