The Just Joans - You Might Be Smiling Now

by Ljubinko Zivkovic Rating:8 Release Date:2017-12-01
The Just Joans - You Might Be Smiling Now
The Just Joans - You Might Be Smiling Now

It might serve a purpose to mention here the famous story that has mutated into many versions of a conversation between Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan about how long it takes them to write songs. According to the most cited version, Dylan asked Cohen how long it took him to write “Hallelujah.” Cohen answered: "Oh, the best part of two years." Then Cohen asked him how long it took Dylan to write “I And I” from Infidels. Dylan responded, "Ohh, fifteen minutes." In a later interview, Cohen added, "Actually I lied. It took me about eight years."

In that respect, the fact that it took Glaswegians The Just Joans eleven years to come up with You Might Be Smiling Now…, their sophomore album, is just a flash of time. But then, if the brother/sister pair of Katie and David Pope wrote songs at a pace closer to Dylan’s, and considering their musical and lyrical inclinations, they would now form a firm Scottish pop triumvirate with Belle & Sebastian and Camera Obscura. Then again, no time would matter if the songs are any good, would it? Judging by the quality of the music presented on You Might Be Smiling Now…, The Just Joans are on the way to claiming their rightful spot in that group.

The similarities with Belle & Sebastian and Camera Obscura in procuring breezy pop melodies combined with intelligent wordplay exist, but on their second album The Just Joans draw more similarities to the American counterpart of all of the above - Stephen Merritt and his band The Magnetic Fields. The music often includes some electronic embellishments ala The Human League, a band that likely inspired both (see: “A Matter of Time” and “You Make Me Physical”), while the lyrics, as was the case on the Joans' debut, are laced with quite a dose of self-depreciation and sarcasm (try “Johnny, Have You Come Lately” for size), yet another Merritt quality. This time however; even though the themes seem to cover the same adolescent area, the eleven years that passed have also brought a hefty dose of maturity.

It all works quite nicely, like the glass of nicely chilled lemonade you drank to swallow that bitter pill you had to take. The self-production retains the clear sound of the siblings' voices and accompanying harmonies that at moments recall Phil Spector via Brian Wilson (the sound is there, no wall though), and the instrumental sounds (particularly the guitars) are clear as the bells (those might be somewhere in the mix, along with a coo-coo clock heard somewhere along the line).

Quite a welcome return. Maybe for the next outing, they might take a writing approach that is somewhere between Dylan and Cohen.

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