The sticker on the cover of Junior Senior’s second album declares that it contains “11 frenzied shockwaves of giddy pop joy!” Normally I wouldn’t take a cover sticker as the authority on an album, but in this case, I can think of no better way to describe this album, a 'doesn’t stop' assault of amazingly fun, over-the-top music.
Junior Senior are best known for “Move Your Feet,” a catchy pop song that featured a fun Microsoft Paint-style video. Their first album is a really good collection of songs, and there was the definite possibility that they could go off into obscurity as a one hit wonder. This album completely annihilates that possibility; it’s one of the best pop albums I’ve ever heard, seamlessly flowing from track to track to create a completely satisfying whole.
“Hello” opens the album with a burst of declarative energy, then quickly segues into the descending, pounding beat of “Hip Hop a Lula.” The song titles are a bit ridiculous, but the music consistently owns. Their sound draws a lot on '80s music, particularly Michael Jackson’s work. The falsetto vocals underscoring “Can I Get Get Get,” and foregrounded in “Ur a Girl” bring back the best of Thriller-era Michael. “Can I…” is full of fun loops and synth textures, an instantly addictive song.
“Take My Time” features guest vocals from Cindy Wilson of the B-52s, and pushes in a more new wave pop direction. The synths are still there, but are backed with hand claps and guitars on the triumphant ascent to the chorus. The plucked guitar line backing the chorus makes the song, driving things along and melding perfectly with the vocal. That said, the descending tinkly synth line is also crucial.
Really, every track on this album is a potential blockbuster single. “Itch U Can’t Scratch” begins with a space age synth background and repeated guitar pattern that sets a wonderful mood, before segueing into a rap from Junior and Senior. The chorus of the song is just sick, full of all kinds of interesting noise and a constantly danceable beat. This track in particular would kill in a club setting. Even the inexplicable “Bigfoot! Dance Now!” breakdown works in the context of the world they’ve created.
“We R the Handclaps” segues back into Michael Jackson mode, with some great falsetto vocals, going way up on the triumphant chorus then moving back to a mid-tempo groove for the verses. One of the things I love about the album in general, and this song in particular, is the sheer joy they put into the music. I like a lot of heavier music, but it’s refreshing to hear someone who just loves what they’re doing. This album is like The Polyphonic Spree of dance music, a completely infectious burst of joy.
And that brings to one of the album’s towering achievements. An epic in only four minutes, “I Like Music” starts with a Motown-style, horn-backed groove, and just keeps adding elements on its way to a huge chorus. Within the song, they take it down a notch, before hitting us with the horns and driving guitar line. I could see people saying the album is a bit repetitive, but there’s a lot of different tones and styles in this song alone. I love bands like The Pipettes or The Raveonettes, who meticulously recreate the style and sound of pop of yore, but it’s a bit more challenging to create something that captures the feelings of those exuberant '60s pop songs in a way that sounds uniquely today or even tomorrow. They approach the past like Daft Punk does, using elements in a new context, mashing everything together into something new.
Next up is “Ur a Girl,” a piece of sugary pop that might be a bit too sweet for some tastes. But, even if things start off a bit too much, the “Kee-Kee-Keep on Rockin!” breakdown should keep everyone entertained. Again, they use the guitar as a rhythm element; it’s not showy playing, but it provides the perfect texture to back the songs. I’d love to see someone like Timbaland or The Neptunes use the guitar in the way they do.
We stick with the '50s/'60s sound on “No No Nos,” which features some wonderful vocal harmonizing, playing the repeated refrain “I won’t fall in love” against the verses. One of my favorite moments on the album is the build out of the chorus to the bridge. The entire song is perched on the edge of an emotional explosion, and finally goes over the top with “You’re a daddy’s girl, and one day you’re gonna’ run away!” The repetition of “Run” at the end of this segment brings Air to mind, but we quickly shift back to the '50s mode for a retro guitar solo.
The album reaches its climax with another triumphant pop song, “Dance, Chance, Romance.” The best part of this track is the sustained vocal and guitar interplay leading into the chorus, but the whole thing is a great driving push forward. Things wrap up with the almost reggae “Happy Rap,” another really fun, impeccably produced song.
This is one of the best pop albums I’ve ever heard, with no bad tracks and a great flow throughout. They’re much more than a one hit wonder, and I can’t wait to see where they go from here.