Junip - Junip (Review)
Review by Jack Foley
THINK you know José González and all that he has to offer musically? Think again… the eponymous album from Junip, the band he fronts alongside drummer Elias Araya and keyboardist Tobias Winterkorn is a real eye-opener – and a gem.
Largely eschewing the stark folk aesthetic of González’s solo efforts, this is a fuller band effort that takes some surprising, often thrilling, directions to encompass garage-rock stompers, Beatles-inspired pop songs and more besides.
Admittedly, there’s a distinct quality to the sound brought about by González’s uniquely haunting voice, while the gentler sound of his solo material is evident on more brooding moments such as Beginnings.
But this is an album that exists to surprise, entertain and operate from a much broader musical palette. The template is laid down from the beginning, with excellent album opener Line of Fire, which layers Beatles-esque melody on top of a hypnotic groove that splits the difference between flamenco syncopation and krautrock repetition.
It layers the instrumentals beautifully, too, building to a heady finale that immediately makes you sit up and take notice.
So Clear, meanwhile, combines some thrilling guitar work with electronic intensity and some cracking vocal layering to deliver another firm favourite, while the percussion on Your Life Your Call is similarly thrilling (the distinct beats lending it real energy, that couples with those González vocals to superb effect). You could even call it a Hot Chip moment!
Yet another favourite, Villain, combines a tribal garage-rock stomp with a fuzzed-out analog bassline and electro-pop synths contrasted by a spooky, subtly sinister vocal. According to González, it represents “the sound of us not constraining ourselves”.
“We weren’t concerned about noise, or being too distorted or musically correct. It was more about vibe, or feeling – it didn’t matter what we did, as long as it felt good.” It sounds great.
Check out Walking Lightly, too, which drops the kind of beat that a Beck production would be proud of, complete with moody vocals that somehow contribute to an uplifting, head-nodding song.
Of the few quieter moments, Suddenly combines a ticking back-beat with some subtle guitar licks and a throbbing electronic bassline, while contemplating: ““What would you do, If it all came back to you, Each crest of each wave, bright as lightning, What would you say, If you had to leave today, Leave everything behind, Even though, for once, you’re shining?”
It’s a song that marries thought-provoking lyrical intelligence with laidback instrumental beauty, and one that González feels “you’d feel okay playing to your baby, or at a wedding”.
“I stepped out of my comfort zone in that song,” González confirms. “Not just musically, but lyrically as well, due to its uncharacteristically uplifting message (‘Found myself in deep dark thoughts/When suddenly there was you’). I always felt like it would be nice to write a song free of any negative subjects or thoughts.”
Baton, meanwhile, broods atmospherically in a way Massive Attack would dig, while also introducing González’s infectious newfound whistling technique, where he creates hooks literally out of thin air.
“I’ve been doing the whistle thing a lot,” he says. “I bought these expensive Neumann mics, and noticed if you whistle into them, they give off a slight distortion; there’s something about the overtones and coloration hitting the root that gives it a Brazilian vibe. It’s a nice way to find melodies – you get the pure melody and nothing else.”
Put together, this is a cracking listen and, quite possibly, one of the best albums you’ll hear all year.
Download picks: Line of Fire, So Clear, Your Life Your Call, Villain, Walking Lightly, Baton