jj – N° 3
Secretly Canadian 2010
[tags: nothing but beautiful dream pop, 2010]
Listen while reading:
Let Go (from N° 3) download it!
Light (from N° 3)
There are two possibilities: either I’m not really into what’s going on in the dream pop scene or there is not much going on at all. You tell me – but please don’t say that last year’s big chillwave movement should be considered dream pop. Well, do what you want, but I certainly don’t call Washed Out’s washed out music dream pop. Early Beach House were dream pop, and so were the Cocteau Twins, even Sleep Whale can claim to be dream pop in my opinion. But in the end I don’t really care. I’m just glad that Swedisch duo jj released such a great substitute for Beach House’s relatively lame Teen Dream. And at this point I want to clarify what I said in my Teen Dream review. I was thinking that Teen Dream could be the best dream pop record of the year even though I didn’t like it that much. And I also hoped that it would get better by time. Both assumptions were totally wrong. First: Teen Dream got more boring every listen and is thousands of miles away of being as great as the self-titled debut or Devotion. Second: Teen Dream isn’t the best dream pop album of 2010 – certainly not. jj’s N° 3 seems to be the candidate for this position, because with N° 3 they released an album that is different from Beach House’s sound but still exactly what I understand while speaking of dream pop as a genre.
N° 3 only got one weak point and I want to point this out straight at the beginning. Compared with all the other magnificent tunes, Into The Light can’t really catch the spirit. But I have to admit, that the football commentary sample (or whatever the hell it is…) should get the price for best embedded sample. Odd and totally fitting at once. I think jj realized that too and built the track around this fact, but one can hear that the enthusiasm wasn’t as big as in writing the other songs. And now, after pointing out the weaknesses, there is no reason not to praise the rest of the album. There are three tracks that exemplify the greatness best: the uber tune and pre-released single Let Go, the world music influenced Voi Parlate, Lo Gioco and the wonderful moony Golden Virginia. Let Go is just one of the best combinations of acoustic and electronic music in a long time. The harmonica and the synthesizers work perfectly hand in hand and at the point where the vocals kick in, you know that this track could be the chilled summer hymn 2010. I mean, really, there is no way not liking this track, if you’re just a little bit into dream pop. The drum arrangements and the sparkling melodies do nothing than beam you into another realm full of summer (even though I don’t like summer…) and carelessness. They could not have chosen a better single for pre-release – and the promotion worked, because I didn’t know jj and I hadn’t listened to their debut N° 2 until I heard Let Go – because I was more than totally convinced that this must be THE dream pop reference album in 2010 if the rest would be as good. And well, not counting Into The Light, it now is the reference record.
Where Let Go could be considered one of the more classical dream pop tunes in structure and featured elements, Voi Parlate, Lo Gioco is, what many reviewers called the R’n’B factor – and to be honest, this was one of the reasons I tried to avoid the record, because R’n’B and CFM don’t fit and probably never will. So I’m not calling this thing R’n’B, I call it world music influences, but in the end it is not more than a specific drum rhythm and foreign voice sample at the beginning. So the whole thing isn’t as exotic as you might have thought. It’s just another example of a great dream pop variation, with nice guitar melodies and some orchestral seeming synths. Just great, but listen for yourself.
The last track I want to speak about in this review is the follow up to the above Voi Parlate, Lo Gioco – and because it is the follow up track, the differences can be seen easily. Golden Virginia is much more relaxed, maybe like what at the beginning of the 00’s would have been called a mixture between the electronic chill out genre and the deep dub movement. But I’m not so much into electronic music genres anymore and so I just call it slowly floating dream pop with some gorgeous flute like synths at the end. What’s not so great, is that the track simply fades and doesn’t have a specific end, but forgiven and forgotten.
One thing I think I have to mention, before ending this review for a record most of you probably heard already, is the running time. Some bands release EPs with a running time of 25 minutes or full lengths that span over three CDs (you get it…). jj’s album is 27 minutes long and maybe some of you think that’s not worth spending the full length price on such a short album. But I like you to consider that the term album seems not to be defined by terms of duration, but by terms of concept. And even if N° 3 is clearly no concept album, there is a specific moment that is inherent to all of the tracks and listening to the whole record gives you the feeling of listening to an album. That’s my opinion, but it is also influenced by my point of view that less tracks are often a guarantee for more quality. And if an album reaches the 25 minutes mark with tracks which let you feel that you listen to an actual album, I’m fine with it. (Btw: I think the difference between a mini-album and an EP also lies in the conceptual orientation, but this doesn’t seem to be a very original thought.) To get your copy of N° 3 you should head over to Secretly Canadian and order it there (also for the MP3s). (And one final note: the debut, N° 2, is available as a limited edition via Sincerely Yours – if you don’t own a copy yet, consider getting it limited.)