Dance-pop for quiet rumination



Junior Boys

City Slang/Domino

4 stars

Here is a head-scratcher: Compared to the glitzy, helmeted duo Daft Punk across the Atlantic pond, Canada's plain-looking twosome Junior Boys are so anonymous - it is a travesty that they have not achieved more recognition.

They probably prefer it this way. Instead of drawing attention to gimmicks, vocalist-guitarist Jeremy Greenspan and engineer-bandmate Matt Didemus have made some of today's most intelligent and inward-looking electronic pop.

It is music to dance to, all right, but it is also something you can sneak into, like a cocoon woven for your own quiet rumination.

Released as a surprise adjoiner to their critically acclaimed fifth record, Big Black Coat (2016), their latest EP, Kiss Me All Night, encapsulates all the wonderful assets associated with Junior Boys.

Opener Yes riffs on incremental keyboard while Greenspan's midnight-confessional voice has never sounded reedier. "Girl, you better," he coos over staccato club beats.

Likewise, Baby Fat subsists in an imaginative retroarcadia.

"I want your love, but you never come around," he appears to mumble, swept up in pitter-pattering bass and far-away synths that come over like a tide.

Just as they updated Bobby Caldwell's 1978 blue-eyed soul classic What You Won't Do For Love in Big Black Coat, they dive deep into the timeless wisdom of John Martyn's soul. Their take on the Martyn's 1980 gem Some People Are Crazy pares it down to sparse electronica. It is an ode to humanity in the age of robots, focusing on the title as a refrain. Greenspan's voice is miked close, as if sharing a conspiratorial whisper.

The Boys end on a high with the EP's ebullient title track.

Kiss Me All Night is the kind of 1980s-styled dance-pop doozie painted with broad, colourful strokes, but sung with a sensitive new-age guy's seduction. You cannot help but smile at Greenspan's exhortations to "kiss me all night", as he goes a note higher in the first two words.

It is dancey, it is heartfelt, it is totally unburdened. What more could you ask for?

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 31, 2016, with the headline 'Dance-pop for quiet rumination'. Print Edition | Subscribe