Canadian duo Junior Boys don’t have a whole lot to prove at this point in their career. They’ve spent the better part of the last decade making some of the more reliably satisfying (if not ostensibly brilliant) electronic pop, pointedly mixing a creative loftiness with a Pet Shop Boys-style ear for atmospheric sensuality. But, even further than that, they’ve shown a sort of effortless talent at being able to vacillate between intimate showcases and intricate compositions.
Since 2004, Junior Boys have released two near masterpieces and one slightly underrated gem. Even recently, though, they have easily carried with them the weight and credibility that they did when Jeremy Greenspan’s satiny stylings peered through Last Exit all those years ago. The duo’s latest and fourth album, It’s All True, is a uniquely satisfying dalliance that aims (and succeeds) to add an extra layer of sheen to all of the bedroom breathlessness.
It’s all right there in album opener “Itchy Fingers.” While not exactly a letter of intent for the album as a whole, what the track does (at least partially) is establish the running of the gamut that is about to take place. Layered as all hell, crammed with bass lines, smooth synth portions, and R&B throwbacks; it’s a rope-a-dope, yeah, but it all seems kind of necessary.
Unlike its predecessor (Begone Dull Care), It’s All True has sights on playing towards its hooky strengths in addition to building those dense sonic foundations that have always made Junior Boys so impressive. The results are far less ambitious, but a lot more satisfying. Go figure, right? So, we get something of a sing-songy, love-making outing that at first seems superficially satisfying, then actually becomes so. A lot of this would appear slight (and most of it is), but the ratio of the album’s introspections to its inhibitions makes things surprisingly compelling.
“Kick the Can,” as well as “Playtime” work as successful throwbacks to a more moody aesthetic, but seem delightfully out of place despite their technical prowess. Greenspan, though, adds equal parts charm, intensity, and lilting earnestness with a vocal performance that rivals anything the duo has released prior. Whether it’s with that damaging, layered falsetto on “Reservoir,” or placed atop that swirling, jittery accompaniment on “Second Chance,” Greenspan has a way of finding ways to make the frank, New Order semblance that this album sports so well a thing of strength as opposed to a nagging itch.
A lot of what makes It’s All True successful is how tangential it can seem, while it’s actually extremely focused. Not surprisingly, album closer “Banana Ripple” takes its place as the LP’s best example of this. A nine minute dance floor hybrid that finds Greenspan sporting genuine R&B chops as well as an intriguing mix of sincerity and bitterness. It’s a hard track to get a handle on, and that’s why it makes such a perfect, assured closer to a deeply effective, while frustratingly intriguing little album.
It’s not that this is an apology for last time around–they have nothing to apologize for, after all. But there is something through out It’s All True that seems both simultaneously mournful and accusatory. The minimalist, deconstructed disco and R&B take their usual places next to the synth-soaked New Wave off-shoots, and its all well and good–Junior Boys are nothing if not craftsman. It’s noteworthy, though, how crisply the album is displayed in relation to how sullen it tends to be. It’s All True plays with its own honesty as perfectly as it does your expectations.