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Junior Boys - It's All True

Junior Boys

It's All True

(Domino Record Co.)

On the Junior Boys latest record It’s All True, singer Jeremy Greenspan claims he’s never seen a truly happy ending. “It gets so close, but it always just falls apart,” he sings on their track “A Truly Happy Ending.” This might seem like a pessimistic perspective, but understanding Greenspan’s worldview is a key component to enjoying the Junior Boys music.

Picture a slightly pudgy man with a receding hairline, questionable taste in clothing, and kind of a big nose. You might not put this snapshot together by listening to Greenspan’s incredibly soulful, brilliantly poignant voice, but this is what makes their music all the more romantic. Greenspan has been burned. He’s loved and lost, he’s getting older, and it’s not as easy as it once was to love, physically or mentally, nor is it as easy to decode the relationships in his life. On It’s All True, the electronic duo—hailing from just over the Canadian border in Hamilton, Ontario—draws inspiration from a wide variety of sources to decode these relationships. A description of the album and its influences recently appeared on the band’s website, citing a collage of people, places, and bands—from Orson Welles, Howard Hughes, and electronic musician Carl Craig, to the country of China, analog synthesizers, and Banana Ripple ice cream. Although this is might sound like a strange conglomeration of ideas, the final product is astoundingly cohesive, thematically and aurally. This is a Junior Boys album and no one else could have done it. It’s dark, it’s pathetic, it’s hopelessly romantic and above all beautiful.

It opens with “Itchy Fingers,” an upbeat synthesizer romp with energy to match its nervous title. From there the album takes an abrupt turn toward heart-wrenching minimalism on “Playtime,” and rebuilds from there with the hooky “You’ll Improve Me” and 1980s pop on “A Truly Happy Ending.” The duo hits their stride on “The Reservoir,” with the their patented haunting bells and whispery vocals. The record peaks at “Second Chance,” with Greenspan whimpering heartfelt lyrics about deceit in relationships, reminding the listener of the album’s title. At its soul, It’s All True confirms your worst relationship fears: The truth is out there, and it hurts. But Greenspan still stands through the pain, a beacon for the heartbroken.

“Kick the Can” sheds serious light on Matt Didemus and the electronic side of the band, channeling repetitive, Carl Craig-like techno sounds, before moving into more pop-friendly territory with the single “ep.” The minimalism established early on, on tracks like “Playtime” and “You’ll Improve Me,” is shattered by the end of the album with one of the Junior Boys’ few truly epic tracks, “Banana Ripple,” which dances from movement to movement without looking back. “I wanted to overwhelm people,” Greenspan said on the band’s website. “There’s so much on there whirring around. It’s insane, but at the same time really precise. Like the rest of the album I wanted it to be viscerally immediate.” The subject of “Banana Ripple” is infamous recluse Howard Hughes. “No you’ll never, no you’ll never, no you’ll never see me go,” the singer repeats in a high falsetto ring, a sentiment one could imagine a time-worn Hughes muttering to himself in the corner of an empty mansion. In the context of the record, as the closing track of what is essentially a break-up album, “Banana Ripple” stands out as an ironic victory lap, where Greenspan embraces his pain, learns from his experiences, and gets his happy ending, but not a truly happy one. It’s All True hits stores on Tuesday, June 14.

cory perla

The Junior Boys will perform at the Phoenix Theater in Toronto this Thursday, June 9.

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