Junip, ‘Junip’ – Album Review
On Junip’s 2010 debut album ‘Fields,’ the Swedish trio applied the delicate indie-folk touches of frontman José González’s solo albums to layers of world-music percussion, old-school electronics and soulful wisps of semi-jazzy rhythms. In other words, it sounded like the singer-songwriter was having way more fun playing in a band, which had formed in the late ‘90s, than on his often-somber solo records.
González must agree. He hasn’t released any solo material since 2007, focusing instead on Junip. That dedication pays off on the group’s self-titled second album, a lovely record about old hopes, new beginnings and redemptive moments of clarity. And once again, the music – supplied by González and bandmates Elias Araya and Tobias Winterkorn – finds a spot somewhere between krautrock rhythms and African beats to infuse a dash of inherent Swedish serenity.
The opening ‘Line of Fire’ skips along a mix of lively percussion, graceful acoustic guitars, calmly galloping bass and González’s weightless, honeyed voice, which recalls any number of ‘70s soft-rock stars welded to history’s long line of folk-singing troubadours. It’s a deceptively easy blend that only begins to reveal its complexities as ‘Junip’ progresses. By the time the New Wave handclaps and machine-like discipline of ‘Your Call’ show up, the album’s sonic playground is in full swing.
Here’s what to listen for: the soft electronic howls and brushed acoustics of ‘So Clear’; the marching percussion and swooping synths that consume ‘Suddenly’; the almost hard-rock thump of the brief, two-minute ‘Villain’; and ‘Head First,’ which is sort of a swampy blues number played by three Swedish guys. Each track is deeper and more intricate than it initially lets on.
And that poses a not-so-minor hurdle for ‘Junip.’ It’s easy for many of the songs to get lost below the surface – too easy. All of the elegant phrasing and playing doesn’t make for a very aggressive listen. Nothing here assaults or even grabs for the listener’s attention. It’s all in the details, and as long as you’re committed to them, there’s plenty of wonder and beauty to be uncovered.