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Friday, March 27, 2009

 

ModMusic: Royksopp's "Junior"

http://991.com/gallery_180x180/Royksopp-Junior-463718-991.jpgFor most Stateside listeners, the Norweigian electronic duo Röyksopp is perhaps known more for their TV commercials than their Top 40 singles. (If you've ever seen the Geico caveman ad on the moving airport sidewalk, you've heard "Remind Me," their instantly identifiable, uplifting midtempo hit.) After two well-regarded but underperforming global releases, Melody A.M. (2001) and The Understanding (2005), it wouldn't be surprising to see their idiosyncratic, atmospheric pop sensibilities turn more straightforward (and commerical).

Not surprising at all. Junior, Röyksopp's latest stab at music for the masses, is packed with hipster-savvy guest vocalists (Robyn, Lykke Li) and pared-down, dancefloor-digestable arrangements. (Junior is the precursor to a second disc, Senior, that will be released later this year.) The album's first two singles, "Happy Up Here" and "The Girl and The Robot," epitomize the 80's-era synths and driving electro basslines that dominate the majority of Junior's tracks. From song to song, echoes of Visage, Heaven 17, and New Order are plentiful, replete with urgent undercurrents and angst-ridden lyrics. Is this bad? Not at all. In fact, it's an entrancing approach for many reasons, not the least of which is its of-the-moment currency and radio-friendly appeal. (Don't get too wistful and teary for the old, neo-symphonic Röyksopp, however; the band throws longtime fans a couple of bones, including the buffed tinniness of "Silver Cruiser" and the operatic soprano wailing over "You Don't Have A Clue.")

The trappings of heartbreak adorn almost every song on Junior, but rarely has melancholy had such bouncy verve. The depth of field, metaphorically speaking, seems quite shallow; if a relationship ends, at least you can dance the pain away. Or you can look inward, navel gaze, and distract yourself while the frizzed-out keyboards play in the distance. With Junior, Röyksopp may have fashioned a new-millennium treatise on solipsism, but to dismiss it as self-absorption would be a stretch. No album as meticulously constructed for consumers could be guilty of dancing with itself.

Listen: "The Girl and the Robot"
Watch : "Happy Up Here"
Buy: Röyksopp, Junior
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