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Album Review: JJ ‘Nº3’

When JJ’s second album (no prizes for guessing the name) found its way onto the internet, very little was known about the band apart from the fact that they were associated with label Sincerely Yours, which of course was formed by The Tough Alliance. It was met with a resounding response from bloggers and music critics alike, and people found themselves liking a band that they didn’t actually know anything about.

However I believe that the mystery surrounding JJ was part of their attraction. There’s nothing much more indie than liking a band which doesn’t seem to exist. So hipsters flocked to the band’s infectious rhythms and intelligent lyrics without a second thought, and ‘Nº2’ was a breakout success. The challenge for the band was always going to be how their music stands up without the mystery surrounding it. And with the band’s next album, ‘Nº3’, due to be released March 9th, coming much earlier than expected, it is time to find out just how good these guys really are.

And much of the mystery around the band has indeed vanished. It has been revealed that JJ is actually a duo, comprising Joakim Benon and Elin Kastlander, both from Sweden. They don’t quite have a Myspace Music page yet, but they are touring America with The XX in the coming months, so suffice to say that they are no longer exactly an obscure band.

This doesn’t really matter however, because their music is just fine without the mystery.

Opening track My Life could not be more different to ‘Nº2’s opener Things Will Never Be The Same Again, which was an upbeat track set to an orchestral backing track and channeling the spirit of Africa. My Life by comparison is a reflective, sombre track, and clocks in at under two minutes. It also features the rather poignant lyric of “Dear Lord you took so many of my people, I’m just wondering, why you haven’t taken my life. What the hell am I doing right? What the hell am I doing right?”. Wow.

JJ have always made intelligent pop music, but this opener really does just take it to another level. The “Na na na na na na” at the the end of the song is beautiful and very catchy, and it seems almost a shame that the band don’t elaborate on it a bit more, perhaps building the song to more of a climax and taking it into the three-minute territory, but as it is My Life leaves you wanting more, which I suppose is a hallmark of all good songs.

The next track And Now is much more like the JJ we know and love, with a strings section and an African drum beat. It certainly wouldn’t have been out of place on ‘Nº2’, but yet the thought of that opening track lingers and adds a bit more depth to the otherwise one-dimensional and uplifting track.

Let Go throws something else new at you, opening with a harmonica solo of all things, backdropped with the sounds of crashing waves. It is certainly one of the stronger songs of the album, with an absolutely gorgeous chorus that can’t help but make you feel like running away to the beach. Just when you think the band have run out of tricks, Into The Light features a sample from what appears to be a football match commentary track.

It’s an interesting first four tracks, to say the least.

Voi Parlate, Io Gioco is a really cool track as well, in an I-don’t-have-a-clue-what-is-going-on kind of way. You Know is classic JJ, pulled off with effortless brilliance and in a more professional way than their previous works. Apart from these two tracks however, the end of the album is a bit disappointing, in particular last song No Escapin’ This, which is so anticlimactic that it almost seems like it must have been a deliberate choice.

There is no way to easily sum up this album. It is a mixture of experimentation, which of course JJ are well suited to, and more of their trademark sound evident in ‘Nº2’. It is the perfect followup to a breakout record, and will serve to alienate no fans but yet at the same time is not merely repeating their old music.

JJ can stand up above the mystery and above the hype, because, above all else, they really are a great band. They make intelligent, thought-provoking, and cultural pop music, whether or not you know the names of their members.

Album Rated: 7.5/10

Listen To: My Life, You Know, And Now, Let Go

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One Response to “Album Review: JJ ‘Nº3’”

  1. It’s a grower, just like their previous releases.

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