Barely two years into their career, as such, enigmatic Swedish duo jj have already released their second full-length album. They court a certain air of mystery, with oblique album artwork and little known about their backgrounds, lives, or activities beyond an association with Tough Alliance and a clutch of press pictures that makes them look like the most angel-faced juvenile delinquents ever. All of that has zero bearing on the self-contained and crystalline music they make.
Opening track “My Life” makes the album, a bruised romantic piano ballad that starts out like some Chet Baker weeper and then hijacks the chorus from some ringtone rap song I really should know and bleeds every bit of weary drama out of it. “And Now” throws me off with some Buddha Bar-Enya shit that makes me think maybe I was wrong about this band, until “Let Go” soothes me with lushness worthy of Sade — but all refracted through a curiously 21st Century sensibility and blankness. “Light” is disembodied music, a vaporous cloud of snatches of Cure ballads, whistling, and one painfully short vocal line. “Voi Parlate, Io Gioco,” if it weren’t for the narcotic haze that wreathes the whole album, is basically radio-ready pop. Odd. “Golden Virginia” builds around sweetly slow and carefully enunciated vocal lines with the pacing of sludge metal, but the synths and percussion are executed with the deft hand of, say, the Pet Shop Boys or Japan. “You Know” sounds, again, like nouveau R&B pop inside an echo chamber, and I’m thinking that what jj is doing is totally conceptual — like ghosts dancing along to the last fading notes of whatever guilty pleasure songs you were playing on Saturday night. Which is fine and all, but I’m still only halfway to a good album.
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