When the Junior Boys first emerged in 2003 with the Birthday EP and their debut LP, Last Exit, the following year, their brand of 2-step bottomed, R&B inflected electronica seemed decidedly nuanced and fresh, a welcome bit of retro futurism sparing us from the dancey post-punk dirges en vogue in indie music at the time. Though '80s revivalism now has a stranglehold on much of both the dance and indie music spectrums they straddle, the Junior Boys'—AKA Jeremy Greenspan and Matthew Didemus—unique mélange of blue-eyed soul, house and disco, Balearic withdrawal and bedroom R&B continues to intrigue. Following the space ballads of 2006's So This Is Goodbye—by most accounts, including mine, their masterwork—and 2009's quieter, more refined Begone Dull Care, the Junior Boys return this summer with album number four, It's All True.
Partially inspired by a trip Greenspan took to Shanghai—rarely heard explicitly, though check those Chinese harps on "Itchy Fingers"!—and recorded there as well as in Berlin and Hamilton, Ontario, It's All True finds the two retracing the elegant expansive textures of their last record while, for the most part, grounding their tracks in the kind of rhythmic jumpabouts we haven't really heard from them since their debut (both "Itchy Fingers" and "A Truly Happy Ending," for example, are as jubilant as anything they've recorded). If "Playtime" pulls back the reins on this pattern, a slow Rhodes crawl atop ticking drum machines, then it's decidedly the quietest thing here. "You'll Improve Me" squiggles across a sturdy clap-and-kit beat on a series of funky synth blurts into its hopeful, joyous chorus, while with its woozy toy-like synthesizer melodies and thin rhythmic guitar "Second Chance" recalls the synthetic soul-tech of acts like Metro Area.
After the aborted (and absolutely unnecessary) stumble-bum largely instrumental workout "Kick the Can," the Junior Boys finish up It's All True with two of its most refreshing cuts. I mentioned it as a reference point before, and it's not typically one associated with the two, but the flashing synth rolls and soft, strolling guitars that open "ep" are downright beardo, arguably the most AM gold offering in their catalogue. But it's really on nine-minute closer "Banana Ripple" where the two offer up the unexpected, voyaging into propulsive floor filler status. Beginning as another of their expressive struts, the track winds through phony horn section parts and multi-tracked vocals from what sounds like a roomful of friends all muttering vaguely tuneful things into a day-burst chorus with Greenspan in his silkiest croon, "and you'll never see me, and you'll never see me, and you'll never see me go." Greenspan has insisted the track includes some 170 tracks of audio, and to listen to it on headphones is to believe him. It's a daring and over-stuffed epic from a duo that's made their name largely on the sophistication in their restraint.
Buy Junior Boys - It's All True at
Tracklist: Junior Boys - It's All True 01. Itchy Fingers
03. You'll Improve Me
04. A Truly Happy Ending
05. The Reservoir
06. Second Chance
07. Kick The Can
09. Banana Ripple
Other Domino reviews