Wednesday, April 08, 2009

CD Review: Junior by Röyksopp

After a long hiatus, Norwegian electronic duo Röyksopp return with their third release Junior. Teaming up with a variety of intriguing female vocalists, they have created an album of wonderful, immersive electropop. Whether you are an electronic music fan or more of a casual listener, this album offers up some great music.

The album begins with “Happy Up Here,” a wonderful, upbeat track that recalls the breezier portions of Röyksopp's debut, Melody A.M. combined with a little bit of the moodier elements of their last album, The Understanding. The result is light but also intoxicating. The song itself is as fleeting as the feelings it brings as it is less than three minutes long.

It is followed up by “The Girl And The Robot,” a decidedly darker track. Sweden's Robyn provides the vocals as she pines for her workaholic “robot” to be with her. This track pairs a pulsing beat with dark atmospherics such as strings and haunting background vocals to make it one of the album's highlights. It's a bit over-the-top but also so enjoyable that you'll want to sing along with the chorus: “In the night I call you up and / Wanna know when you're coming home / Don't deny me / Call me back / I'm so alone.” Indie darling Lykke Li brings her unique vocals to “Miss It So Much,” a lovely little track. The music's bubbly synths and heavy bass pair up well with Li's understated performance.

Anneli Drecker, who previously worked with Röyksopp on their first album, appears on three tracks. “Vision One” is an excellent reworking of the bassline of Stevie Wonder's “Too High.” Drecker's vocals keeps things steady as the melody goes off into bleepier directions. However, her best vocal performance is on “You Don't Have A Clue,” a mellow treat with a dark undertone. The somewhat dreamy quality of her vocals is put to good use and her refrain of “You're hiding from yourself / Yes you are / Yes you are” resonates. The one misstep is “True To Life,” but that's not her fault. That song is a bit clunky compared to the rest of the album.

Another previous Röyksopp collaborator featured on Junior is Karin Dreijer-Andersson of The Knife. Previously appearing on “What Else Is There?” from The Understanding, she is featured on two tracks. Both tracks use her abilities in different ways. “This Must Be It,” has more of an upbeat, celebratory feel. “Tricky Tricky,” on the other hand, is a lot angrier. There is a purposely cold feel to the music here and it's a credit to Andersson that she could sing the following line without making you want to laugh: “Is six afraid of seven cause seven ate nine? / I'm about to lose it a second time.”

Each Röyksopp album has had an epic instrumental and the one on Junior is one of their best. “Röyksopp Forever” is sort of a mini-journey through their career. The song starts off with a more minimal, relaxed feel (it samples Skylark's “Suites For My Lady”) and things steadily get more grandiose. At its high point, the song has a triumphant feel with insistent strings, ethereal background vocals, and a nice bassline hidden under everything else.

When Röyksopp released The Understanding, it was a dramatic departure from Melody A.M. Junior is not so much a departure from The Understanding as a melding of its sensibilities with that of Melody A.M. The result is an album that definitely deserves to be in their company. Röyksopp have crafted a great album of electropop that not only pleases fan but also manages to be accessible to nonfans. With rumors of a companion album called Senior, we may get to hear more from the duo soon. Even if we don't, whatever comes next will likely be worth the wait.

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