After two years of relative silence following 2012’s High Summer ep, JJ return on August 19th with V. The album is their first full length since 2010’s jj no. 3, and finds the group returning to Secretly Canadian. Like their previous efforts, the duo find a way to filter contemporary hip-hop and dance influences through traditionally hooky Swedish pop.
The songs that work best on V are both gorgeous and silly (albeit in a self-aware, mining-the-radio sort of way). One of the best examples that shows both ends of the spectrum comes in with the third track, “Dean & Me”. The production is dense, and the drums and synths meticulously programmed without sounding too busy. Singer Elin Kastlander wears her heart on her sleeve, with lyrics like “I’m falling apart cause I’m falling in love with you, but something inside tells me we will never be”. The song also features a lush, wordless breakdown with multiple overdubs of Kastlander’s voice, the perfect bridge to a beautiful song.
It seems like JJ is suffering from a minor identity crisis, even moreso than on previous releases. V consistently keeps one foot in the art-pop world and the other in the mainstream. In the same song, Kasrlander sings “I know I’m drunk, I know it’s late, but I will call you anyway”, and later, “It’s my party and I’ll die if I want to, it’s my party I’ll get high if I want to, life’s a party I can die if I want to, God is here, say hi if you want to”. To JJ’s credit, they slip these lines in with ease, but they are jarring compared of the rest of the track’s lyrics. Like many other songs on V, “Dean & Me” tries to blend these two universes together. For the most part it works well, as JJ have never been shy about their love of contemporary pop (see: collaborations with Ne-Yo and Don Trip).
On V, JJ have fully embraced the radio universe that made Lorde’s “Royals” a hit last year. Given the right exposure, the duo could find themselves with a hit of their own, subverting the invisible songwriting machines that dominate new pop music.