jj jj n° 3(Secretly Canadian/Sincerely Yours) Buy it from Insound
“Take me away like I overdose on heroin… “
Since Swedish indie-pop enigma jj (members Joakim Benon and Elin Kastlander) broke out last year, gaining notoriety with their cannabis-emblazoned full-length debut, jj n° 2, the group has signed to Secretly Canadian, toured and crafted their follow-up, the chaptered jj n° 3. A step both productive and opportunistic, and obviously motivated by the acclaim they received less than a year ago, jj’s attempting to keep their newfound fan club satiated and, in turn, keep themselves relevant.
Somewhat predictably, jj n° 3 follows its predecessor’s plot, amassing lethargic sunshiny beats with a touch of boom-bap here, a sprinkle of tom-tom there, club-friendly slo-mixes that soften sentiments like the one above. Elin Kastlander’s melancholic inquiries in the dirge My Life, (“Dear Lord, he took so many of my people/I’m just wonderin’ why you haven’t taken my life/What the hell am I doin’ right?”), open the album atop isolated piano strokes and offer an impassioned and short introduction. It’s the best song on the album, emotionally charged and quick to the point in less than 2 minutes. One thing you can give jj credit for is that they don’t waste time. jj n° 3 is 9 songs and about 27 minutes long.
Once My Life comes to a close, the lighter, more pleasant rhythm of And Now, (“And now when the end is near/I know/you meant every tear you gave to me that year”), follows and establishes somewhat of an ironic clash between lighthearted exuberance (sound) and despair (content). The album’s first single, Let Go, sort of utilizes a similar device: lonely harmonica preceding its wave of warm and reverberating electricity and percussion before the song ultimately becomes a pep rally, (“Let your mind blow all your sorrows away.”)
Into The Light explores some layers of sonic nuance before settling on one solid foundation, a Spanish-speaking sports commentator randomly breaking into the music at points in a fit of celebration. Light is a mostly acoustic ballad, whistles and other assorted embellishments added to spruce up the song. Voi Parlate, Io Gioco bounces amiably enough before Golden Virginia cools the mood, visiting My Life’s isolation while adding a soft stomp off in the distance.
There’s a romantic comedy somewhere that’s missing You Know, whose overjoyed Carly Simon-ishness immediately evokes thoughts of large hair, Nora Ephron and Meg Ryan. Harsh? Perhaps, but jj, for the most part, already walks a fine line between modern day indie pop and 80s adult contemporary. Pushing this sort of sound only begs to question their reputation as an acclaimed indie presence, as this level of accessibility seems commonplace for any Top 40 radio station.
As multi-layered and meticulous as jj n° 3 is, (or pretends to be), it’s difficult to get around how monotonous it becomes. By No Escapin’ This, with a mere 27 minutes to sit through, you realize that you just missed everything, as if watching a movie while blindfolded or asleep. Kastlander maintains a chilling vitality through most of the music, but her presence doesn’t do much to enliven what already feels hurried and unimaginatively borrowed from their last album. jj n°3, in essence, fails to carry the same number of dimensions and, unfortunately, and perhaps unfairly, reduces jj to a hype machine.