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JJ “V” – Album Review

Secretly Canadian (2014)

Swedish electronic duo Joakim Benon and Elin Kastlander have certainly been ringing in the changes since 2010’s confusingly-titled sophomore jj N° 3. As well as changing their JJ moniker from lower to upper case, the one-time enigmatic pair have also recently started to embrace the concept of press attention, and most significantly, have now swapped the lo-fi for the grandiose on their orchestral-led third album, V.

However, fans of their previous DIY fare shouldn’t be too concerned that they will lose JJ to the mainstream, as these twelve tracks still retain the outlandishness and unpredictability that once had the twosome hailed as the natural successors to The Knife’s avant-pop throne.

Indeed, V might be bathed in lavish sweeping strings, but it’s far from a restrained affair, with songs which shapeshift from tropical house to Latin folk (“Fagelsangen”) and hymnal balladry to shimmering shoegaze (“All White Everything”) and brave (if sometimes slightly misguided) ventures into everything from 90s grunge (“All Ways, Always”) to Fleet Foxes-esque choral pop (“Be Here Now”) to vocodered hip-hop (“Hold Me”).

Sadly, this everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach comes across as unfocused rather than experimental, and it’s only when JJ settle down into their shimmering dream pop comfort zone that the record excels, whether it’s on the gorgeously atmospheric “When I Need You,” an alternative lullaby which showcases Kastlander’s fragile vocals in all their glory, or “Dean & Me,” a hypnotic wave of glacial synths and ethereal melodies which playfully references Lesley Gore’s signature hit “It’s My Party.”

JJ recently admitted in an interview that they made V “quite selfishly, to appeal primarily to ourselves,” which perhaps explains its self-indulgent and occasionally aimless tone. An appreciation for their audience might be in order for their next studio effort, whatever number they decide to name it.

2.5 / 5 stars     

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About the Author

on MUSIC IS MY OXYGEN WEEKLY.

Jon O'Brien's love of music began as a six-year-old after becoming bizarrely transfixed with the 80s poodle rock of Heart, Europe and Def Leppard. Switching his attention to pop icon Michael Jackson, he then became addicted to the UK Top 40, becoming a rather pointless walking Wikipedia of chart positions in the process. Driving his poor neighbors up the wall while learning to play the drums as a teen, he toyed with the idea of becoming a musician, but in studying Journalism at the University of Central Lancashire, he realized heÕd rather write about music than perform it. Since then, he's written thousands of reviews and biographies on everything from bubblegum pop to death metal, but electronica remains his main passion, with everything from Aphex Twin to Zero 7 in his spare room-consuming record collection. Jon resides in northwest England near Liverpool.

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