JJ - V - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

JJ - V

by Jeff Penczak Rating:8.5 Release Date:2014-08-19

This is the fifth (more or less) release by the eerily similar-looking jj, the Göteborg, Sweden, duo of Elin Kastlander and Joakim Benon, aka “j[ag]” (“me”) and j[oakim]. Since their debut five years ago, they’ve been perfecting their mashup of dubstep, EDM, hip-hop, dream-pop, and unusual cover versions (‘Theme from Welcome Back, Kotter’, anyone?), and V (the Roman Numeral for five – obviously these folks are big on abbreviations) finds them continuing to distance themselves from the headache-inducing baggage of the Kills mixtape and developing their mellower, more emotionally intimate yearnings evinced on their previous release, the essential ‘Beautiful Life’ single (aka jj Nº4).

For starters, there’s the ambient, ominous-sounding instrumental snippet of the title track, which is straight out of a horror movie, and ‘Dynasti’, which picks up the pace somewhat, but still sounds more like a walk-on backing-track for their live performances. My feet aren’t exactly happy and I feel like I stumbled into an Of Monsters and Men session.

‘Dean & Me’ (a reference to their debut’s ‘Me & Dean’?) re-establishes that jj sound I’ve been expecting: Kastlander’s soaring vocals punching through bouncy backbeats, this time grabbing some lyrics from Leslie Gore’s ‘It’s My Party’ along the way. There’s another glitchy return to form on ‘All White Everything’, but it also brings those syncopated Bjork-like utterances back – an observation, not a criticism.

‘When I Need You’ is soft and cuddly, and Kastlander’s raspy vocals are rather sexy in a smoky, sultry, sirenesque sort of way. Little-children-at-play sound effects imbue ‘Fågelsång’ (‘Birdsong’) with a sense of carefree fun and games, while the mournful orchestral embellishments on ‘Full’ emphasize the emptiness expressed in lyrics like “Oh, God, I’m so alone”. This is Nordic angst at its most icily romantic.

By the time we reach the last half of side two, it’s clear that jj have left their hip-hop bombast behind and matured to a fuller sound with more emotional presentations (‘Inner Light’ is Melanie channeled through Leonard Cohen). ‘Be Here Now’ is a soothing, liturgical gem bordering on Gregorian chant which may just feature Kastlander’s best-ever vocal, and ‘All Ways Always’ is as perfect a piece of effervescent pop as they’ve conjured to date and would sound even better coming out of Joan Jett’s mouth. Still, there’s always the hip-hoppy, “Fuck”-laden ‘Hold Me’ for diehards with ‘My Boys’ on eternal repeat.

Overall, an exciting release recommended to the already adventurous fans of Islaja and Lidwine.

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