Javelin, the Brooklyn-by-way-of-Providence duo, have been playing loft parties and art galleries and releasing CD-Rs, 12”s, and mixes for the past five years, but it’s No Mas that serves as their official full-length debut. This means that some of the songs here have already been out for a while, redone or edited a bit for the new album (for example, “Mossy Woodland” now has vocals), but it’s no matter, because Javelin’s brand of Billyburg summer pop—breezy with minimal low-end, flat electronic-y depth, good for ear buds or beach stereos, never too serious or intense—manages to be fun without ever being trivial. This is perhaps thanks to the fact that, although Javelin isn’t aiming for earnestness, they also avoid the overly-ironic; instead, they settle for quick, focused-yet-spacious experimental pop songs, like more interesting, quirkier cousins of MGMT. In fact, it’s these pastiches with few words that don’t end where you want them to that fare better than the more developed songs, like “Moscow 1980,” or “Oh! Centra,” the former disco-influenced, the latter sounding like Madlib-as-Quasimoto trying his hand at ’80s sex rap, and both of which suffer a bit in their structure.
Because it’s this kind of laidback, loose, dance music that’s most appealing about Javelin. They experiment with genre (there are hints of Chicago soul, psychedelic pop, ’70s instrumental soundtracks), but they never push things outside their realm. Which doesn’t mean that No Mas isn’t an inventive, creative album: it just means that Javelin know what they’re good at, where they stand, and they aren’t trying to shove their knowledge and musical interests in their listeners faces. Instead, they let them find it for themselves by picking up on bits and pieces and carrying them forward, focusing on what interests them without having to worry about what they don’t. Could you really ask for anything more?