It's All True
On their recent releases, the electro-pop put forth by Junior Boys was excellently refined and intimate in composition and production. Jeremy Greenspan’s lyrics certainly put his emotions out in the open, and he and bandmate Matthew Didemus constructed the songs that excelled in their polished restraint. Yet it came with a detached air, almost as if the honed electronic sounds and the spirit of the music were being presented from behind a screen. All the same basic elements—classic synth leads, intricately pulsing rhythms and pop vocal stylings—are back again for It’s All True, but for this album the screen is completely gone, and Junior Boys are as front and center as they’ve ever been.
Confidence is everywhere on this album. Greenspan and Didemus trust their writing enough to leave some of the musical edges unrefined. Tempos are boosted, the synths are brighter, the beats more direct and crisp in the mix, and most importantly, the measured balance that has marked so much of the band’s best work is successfully repurposed to match. Greenspan’s vocals are placed more to the front of the mix, and he greats his enhanced exposure with genuine hooks and at times a newfound brash attitude.
Most of the album was written while Greenspan was living in Shanghai, and sonic remnants of that trip come through here and there, but for the most part the band are not tackling new sounds, so much as finding new ways to invigorate what they already do quite well. The album swings, wildly at times, between extremes in tempo and energy with varying degrees of success. After opener “Itchy Fingers” races off at maximum speed with stuttering drums and a prickly baseline, it’s immediately followed by the laboriously paced “Playtime” which marks the album’s sparsest moment, and probably its least effective. From there “You’ll Improve Me” and “A Truly Happy Ending” provide a pair of upbeat numbers with Greenspan imploring, “If you want it, let is show” on the former and working himself up to a perfectly employed falsetto chorus on the later.
Those high vocals return on “The Reservoir”, the most successful of the three slow jams that made their way into the album. Built around a beat chopped down to noting but it’s most essential ticks and pulses, the music nicely shifts to match the changing mood of Greenspan’s narrative. In another surprising turn, “Kick the Can” beats the remixers to the punch, and Junior Boys show they’ve got a knack for minimal techno beats. Here the sparse vocals get sequenced into place as accents for the shiftily melodic rhythm that remains nicely transformative from start to ending.
But nothing that’s come before really comes close to matching the epic success Junior Boys achieve during the 9 minutes of “Banana Ripple”. After introducing the drums with a studio outtake asking for the click track the songs tumultuous ride seems to pass in an instant, riding the ebbs and flows of a powerful beat and layers synths and Greenspan’s endlessly repeated spirited promise that, “You’ll never see me go.” But eventually he does, slowing fading out the album with measured organ stabs. It’s a major high note to end the album, and a good representation of a project with lofty successes, but a few stumbles along the way.