It is hard to believe four years have passed since Royksopp dropped their second LP The Understanding to the masses and that it’s been eight years since the native Norwegians graced the world stage with the magnificent debut record Melody A.M..
For its third release (with a fourth planned for later this year), Royksopp’s Svein Berge and Torbjørn Brundtland came up with some instrumental gems, but opted to make a mainly vocal-based record, with their own pipes alongside guests including long-time collaborator Anneli Drecker (on "Vision One"), rising young Norway pop star Lykke Li (“Miss It So Much”), Robyn and others.
Cutting right to the chase, Junior is simply the most consistent and playful album Royksopp has recorded yet. Let me count the ways.
The clap-happy first single and mind-trip of a video “Happy Up Here” is chock full of light-hearted electronics and vocals, and also features a Parliament sample. Thus, it’s a proper introduction to a record full of coolness.
The hot dance track “The Girl And The Robot” sounds like a New Order “Blue Monday” remix-meets-Madonna’s “Hung Up.” It also sees the recently resurrected Swedish pop star Robyn making a cameo and singing about loneliness and frustration about her man working like a robot. It’s a situation so bad she goes “mental” over it and later resorts to watching MTV, which does nothing for her: “Fell asleep again in front of MTV…No one’s singing songs for me”.
On “Vision One” (and to a lesser extent “Happy Up Here”), Royksopp prove they are on the cutting edge in synthesizer technology. The deep, expanding and contracting synth used here is more than rad cool. It’s bleepin’ awesome, especially when heard through high quality headphones or stereo system. The amount of well-produced and structured otherworldly soundscapes on this album is enough to make the likes of Daft Punk and Air jealous.
“This Must Be It,” featuring the passionate and breathy vocals of The Knife’s Karen Dreijer-Anderson and oceanic wave-like synths at its end, is arguably the most blissful house number Royksopp’s written to date.
“Silver Cruiser,” the most peaceful and trippy track and instrumental on the album sounds like electronic Radiohead if they were inspired by Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon.
The rest of these tracks are enjoyable to listen to as well, though "True To Life" may test your patience, as it doesn't veer all that much from its initial melody and take off into flange-aided psychedelic territory until its last minute or so. And a corny lyric or two on “Tricky Tricky” may make you wince for a couple of seconds, but this slice of synth-heavy electronica is an otherwise effervescent rave-up.
In all, Junior not only keeps its streak of extraordinarily produced records alive, it bridges the divide between the lovable instrumental soundscapes of its first record and the more pop vocal-oriented material from its second, only with better results this time around. In other words, it’s a must-have for any serious Royksopp fan.
Key tracks: “The Girl And The Robot,” “Vision One,” “This Must Be It,” “Silver Cruiser”
Click here to watch Royksopp's "Happy Up Here" video.