, the new album by Junip, is the most consistent album I've heard all year. It's a mood piece that never breaks stride, staying true to its mellow, spacey groove throughout all eleven tunes.
This trio from Gothenburg, Sweden, (home of Little Dragon, Love Is All, Sambassadeur), features singer/songwriter/guitarist Jose Gonzalez, who has had a successful solo career making music even softer than this. He's joined by drummer and childhood mate, Elias Araya, and the well-named keyboardist, Tobias Winterkorn, who provides kernels of integrity-filled analog synthesizer and electric piano atmosphere.
What sets Junip apart is Gonzalez's choice of instrument. He plays a nylon-stringed classical guitar, which creates a propulsive, yet muffled sound that moves these tunes along. If he had chosen a steel-stringed acoustic, this record would've been a strummy bore. Instead, these simple songs are given a fresh texture. Winterkorn's choices are a real throwback, as all the keys are played by hand. There doesn't seem to be a programmed sequence on the whole album, which is a welcome change from the chattering, late 80's-style synths that are in fashion right now.
By far, the best song here is "Rope and Summit," which was released as part of an EP earlier this year. The groove is hypnotic with a simple, driving beat, percussion and plenty of Ray Manzarek-style electric piano. It's a perfect song for night driving as Gonzalez chants "We've got a rope and summit but we need to wake up." Five and a half minutes pass and you realize Junip have vamping on one chord the whole time, yet somehow you could listen for ten more minutes and not get restless.
Nothing else here reaches the heights of "Rope and Summit," but other standouts include the meditative "Without You" and the Traffic-influenced "In Every Direction." Fields
fades a bit toward the late middle and you begin to notice the lack of a real bass player, which would've added a punch that is sometimes lacking. But Junip finish strong, with the pastoral "To The Grain," and the closer, "Tide," which expands and contracts like its title would suggest, over the course of almost seven minutes, again without ever feeling long.
Lyrically, it's sometimes hard to tell what Gonzalez is saying. His delivery is quiet, mumbly and never emphatic. When you can make him out, you almost wish you hadn't as he has a tendency to generalize. But he blends so well with the music he's created that it almost doesn't matter. There's a touch of warm distortion on his voice that helps it seep into the mix, as if it's just another instrument.
, is an album of modest joys. It peaks early, but stick around. Its a grower, not a shower.
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MP3: "Rope and Summit"
Junip on Myspace
Junip: Live at the Knitting Factory