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.