Although it was set loose to the public on Tuesday (4/26), the first of my many cycles of Junip's self-titled, sophomore release came back in February. It's peculiar to receive a review copy of an album that far in advance, but it proved to be quite a treat. Rather than a hasty taste test, I was provided a full two months to digest the entire album.
My initial experience with the Swedish trio's follow-up to their 2010 debut Shields can only be described as blissful. The album's leading track, "Line Of Fire" acted as my primary source of sonic stress release. On its surface, the song is as mentally elevating as its beautifully uncertain opening, where Jose Gonzalez's acoustic picking tickles the persistent synth and percussion of Tobias Winterkorn and Elias Araya (respectively), acted as an equalizing portal into my state of despondency. As the song heats, you're carried by the music out of the darkness, saturated with a celestial explosion of sound complemented by Gonzalez's trademark whisper, which acts as your voice of reason.
When the band released the bizarre and metaphorically frightening "Line Of Fire" music video, I was concerned that I had misinterpreted the song entirely. I was forced to look at the song from an alternative angle. What I had adopted as my Zen-like source of escape was actually about desertion and weakness.
Though I felt a bit ignorant in my assumptions, this experience led to a greater respect for the album as a whole. Lyrically the songs are embedded with a particular theme, but the listener is given the freedom to detach and simply explore and enjoy on their own accord.
Throughout the entire album, the knitting of the sci-fi Moog sounds with Gonzalez's earthly acoustic guitar and calming vocals uphold the spiritual values of the album's opener. Songs like "Head First" and "Baton" are satisfyingly numbing in their persistence while lacking a definitive hook. In them, you're overwhelmed by a sense of patience and simplicity that rather than boring, cleanses the listener. The inspiring and bright "Walking Lightly" is lyrically repetitive, but peacefully marching as if it was culty hymnal. Conversely, like "Line Of Fire", there are additional tracks that embody a sense of urgency. Like its title suggests, "So Clear" is an alarming pulse of clarity.
The past two months have offered plenty of time to analyze Junip's recent release, yet I still find it difficult to confidently condense the album into a simple review. Perhaps this is due to the album's tranquilizing capability, which always seems to divert my attention away from work. As confusing as it may sound, rather than understanding Junip while listening to Junip, you're drawn to understand yourself. It's certainly going to remain on loop as my source of sonic escape during claustrophobic subway commutes.