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WPGM Recommends: JR JR – JR JR (Album Review)

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JR JR are the definition of fun. Give the most miserable of all grumps a JR JR record and put your life savings on them cracking a smile, it’s the safest bet you’ll ever make. Upon hearing their third self-titled album JR JR was on the brink of being released, the sheer excitement inside of me was too much to bear, I wasn’t even aware the victory dance I was doing was already in full swing. Expectations were high for this Michigan based indie-pop duo.

The notable change since the release of the Speed Of Things was the abandonment of Nascar driver’s name Dale Earnhardt from their official band name, altering Dale Earnhardt Jr Jr to just JR JR. No hard feelings from the racecar speedster who apparently is a fan of their work. So luckily no law suits to spoil the day. The only problem with using this name was the confusion which inharmoniously worked alongside it.

Not only does the alteration clear up the fog of those expecting to come across Nascar highlights video on Youtube instead of a wild haired hipster going to town on some synths, it also suggests a new identity for this musically talented duo. However, there is no need to worry about these new beginnings. For those who fear change, a new name does not necessarily lead to doom and gloom. For JR JR, it may be a new name but it sure is the same old soul.

You’re thrown straight back into the colourful synth party with opening track “As Time Goes By”. JR JR must not have got the memo that fireworks are supposed to conclude the show, not start it. Nevertheless, they start their third album with a bang. This gripping track gives JR JR fans exactly what they want, with a familiar upbeat and joyful track we’re so used hearing from these two. This feeling of strong jubilation is sustained as the album progresses to the next track “Gone”, which was released as a single prior to dropping of this record. A very strong start indeed which we leave you whistling away.

The third track “Caroline” is my favourite personal pick of the bunch. According to a Twitter Q&A session, JR JR claim “Caroline was written based on a dream Josh had that he was really a woman named Caroline”. Fair enough, not going to question that. This slower paced track repetitively builds and builds until it grows into an anthem taking hold of you to participate in shouting out the most powerful line of all their choruses “No one’s gonna live my life for me”.

This is followed by a very different funky 80s stylised track “In The Middle” almost resembling a Janet Jackson sound. The first half of the album finished with another triumphant track “Philip The Engineer” which, dare I say it, sounds like it belongs on Sgt Peppers. This ‘must be’ Beatles inspired track brings a piano heavy backing combined with yet another catchy poppy chorus indicating the versatility in sound JR JR has stumbled across.

In terms of consistency, the album probably hit its peak with “Philip The Engineer” as the stand out gems are more sparsely spread out in the second half of the album. One being “James Dean”, which was also put on their Soundcloud page months prior to the release of JR JR. This downtempo R&B track is as cool as the man himself but with a melodic melancholy edge to it. The distorted electronic vocals, almost like auto-tuned trembling brings in an element of sadness potentially symbolising a similar feel to realisation of this once great actor’s untimely death.

Albeit not with a loud band, JR JR’s album finishes strong with the oddly titled track “Listening to Outkast, June 23, 2014”. According to their Twitter page, this song is simply written at the time they were listening Outkast’s “Ms Jackson” on that specific date – which doesn’t bring us any closer to the inspiration to the song. Regardless of this potential randomness, it doesn’t distract us from the fact that it’s a cracking track which delves into some interesting percussion and electronic experimentation.

JR JR is a highly enjoyable and entertaining album from start to finish. It doesn’t necessarily slow down or speed up, it simply sustains its upbeat prowess throughout. They begin their tour of the States on October 1, with support acts Hippo Campus and then Brothertiger accompanying them on what I can only imagine as being the most fun party bus ever, judging solely by their wonderful music itself. JR JR is out now via Warner Bros. Records, purchase it on iTunes here.

Words by Finn Brownbill

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