Release Date: Apr 23, 2013
Record label: Mute
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock, Indie Pop, Alternative Singer/Songwriter
As a solo artist, Argentine-born, Sweden-based indie-folk auteur José González can massage your worried mind like Cat Stevens. With his band Junip, there's a dark, funky undercurrent pulling against the pastoral kindness. Here, he dangles tensile guitar and low-talking tenor over stark, worldly grooves and drone-haunted synths, like Fleet Foxes with a hellhound on their trail.
Junip’s second full-length finds them occupying the same melancholy, earnest spaces as their last, but the Swedish trio have since outgrown some restrictive boundaries. José González’s smooth, honeyed vocals and nylon-string plucking are more timbres than lead presences, and to great success. Tobias Winterkorn’s varied, otherworldly Moog swells unify the tracks, and Elias Araya’s decisive percussion is the essential foil.
Junip's debut album Fields was a sleeper hit, partly because of its intriguing mix of folk, pop, electronic, and globe-trotting sounds, and partly because it was full of strong, simple songs that slowly but surely grabbed listeners' ears and refused to let go. The band's self-titled follow-up is even more of a grower, in more ways than one: Jose Gonzalez and company opt for bigger arrangements and productions this time around, so much so that it can take a few listens for some of these songs to truly unfold. As on their debut album, there are moments that are more about the sound than the songwriting; "Villain"'s distorted drums and crystalline keyboards are especially tantalizing, and a little frustrating, because the song they're attached to is so brief.
Junip are a three-piece consisting of singer-songwriter José González, drummer Elias Araya and keyboardist Tobia Winterkorn. Gonzalez is by far the best-known of the three: after his cover of The Knife’s Heartbeats soundtracked the tumbling of colourful spheres in a 2005 Sony advert, sales of his solo albums received a big fillip. Given the asymmetrical nature of the band members’ fame levels, it would be easy to see Junip as González’s Tin Machine-style hobby band.
Getting the band back together may end up being the smartest move in Jose Gonzalez’s career. The Swede started Junip in the early 2000s with drummer Elias Araya and synth player Tobias Winterkorn, but the trio released only one EP before Gonzalez hit paydirt with his solo minimalist motorik bossa nova folk. That signature style, which emphasized rhythm and melody equally, produced two LPs, although it may have been his transformative covers of songs by the Knife, Joy Division, and Massive Attack that got Gonzalez the most notice.
JUNIP play the Great Hall June 10. See listing. Rating: NNN It must be a bit strange for José González to still be most famous for his 2006 solo acoustic cover of the Knife's synth pop hit Heartbeats. That success led to a surge of interest in his emotionally wrenching minimalist folk music, but also sidelined his post-rock-inspired band Junip until he revived the trio in 2010.
Although Junip insists they are a band first and foremost, they are probably José González’s band for most of the world. Partly that’s because his international solo fame with 2005’s Veneer and 2007’s In Our Nature yielded the surplus spotlight they needed, after 12 years of existence, to release their debut full-length Fields in 2010 and have anybody care. Partly, that’s because of González’s voice.
The new eponymous LP by Swedish singer-songwriter Jose Gonzalez’ three-piece rock band Junip is their second full-length release since forming 15 years ago, and also their second since 2010. You read that correctly; after Gonzalez happened upon sudden success as a solo artist in the mid-aughts, Junip was cornered into taking an extended break, managing to squeeze out just two EPs before their 2010 formal debut Fields. Their tedious progress finally comes to a head on Junip, a frequently gorgeous exercise in teamwork and restraint: In the album’s strongest moments, Junip treat their songs like a fragile house of cards, not to be built too fast or aggressively lest one over-eager misstep ruin the whole thing.
What one regards as squanderous, another deems as progressive. On his own, Swedish-Argentine singer-songwriter Jose Gonzalez is a fleet-fingered, ruby-throated troubadour — adept at bucolic balladry, possessor of a voice of quiet resignation to life's inevitabilities, string-picking successor to Nick Drake, Elliott Smith, Samuel Beam. However, with three-piece outfit Junip, Gonzalez's guitar lines merely plug tiny, leaky holes in an enormous wall of electronic sound.
Making intimate music is easier for a solo performer than for a band for a reason that is purely common sense: If you only have one person playing, the songs can be as tiny and personal as they want to be. But José González’s minuscule songs are more potent than most. With an acoustic guitar and a whispering voice as his only tools, González designs quietly beautiful music.
This Swedish folktronic band has long been back-burnered to guitarist José González's solo career, yet this year's self-titled follow-up to 2010's Fields provides solid evidence that the six-stringer's most interesting work takes place under the Junip umbrella. "Line of Fire," a slow-burning bit of mood building, sets the tone for the entire journey. Songs like the grooving "Suddenly" and "Villain," vaguely reminiscent of the Black Keys with its fuzzed-out guitars and stripped-down drums, unfold slowly in intriguing patterns that eventually start to emerge from the wallpaper.
José González is best known as the man who brought us his unique spins on ‘Heartbeats’ by fellow Swedes The Knife and Massive Attack’s seminal ‘Teardrop’. His other musical avenue is the trio Junip who are back with their second long player, the follow up to 2010’s ‘Fields’.The self-titled album opens strongly with ‘Line Of Fire’, a woozy Broken Bells type number where the frontman sounds at his most earnest complete. Proceedings then take a stylistic u-turn on down tempo ballad ‘Suddenly’, González crooning uncannily like Alexis from Hot Chip over deep bass squelches and the sound of bashed wood blocks.