To review this album I’m going to start again. I’m going to pretend I didn’t grab jj’s no.2 last year and instantly fall in love with it. I’m going to forget all their pre-SXSW hype and all their post-SXSW press. I’m even going to ignore the alienating live set I caught the other week. For this review I’m going to listen as if it’s a first encounter, a mysterious stranger settling down in the stereo with little comment or complaint.
jj are a Swedish duo. Finding out much else out about them is nigh impossible. From what I understand he writes the music, she sings on it. This is their second record, out now (in the US) via the excellent Secretly Canadian (released in the UK 3 May).
If this record were a stranger, if I came home one evening and found it sitting unannounced in my living room all shimmering beauty with a creep of sinister smile, I’d lock the doors and never let it leave.
From the first press of play the album sounds quite familiar. It is after all glisteningly fey Swedish pop, but the brilliance of jj lies in the unexpected, the layers I didn’t notice until the third of fourth time round. Lines like “Take me away like I overdosed on heroin” are not what I’d expect from say, a Concretes record.
Let’s take the opening track ‘My Life’; a sparse and delicate piano led ballad that swoons it’s way into the very pit of my stomach with every drop of her voice. And then I realise the lyrics are lifted directly from Lil Wayne. To be honest, I was a little perplexed by the use of the term ‘grindin’.
Elsewhere on the album there’s a song about ‘Golden Virginia’, samples of commentary from what sounds like an Italian football match, and so many rousing synths I’ll never need to listen to Air France again.
Honestly, there is so much to like here. The tracks and production are sublime, the vocals a swathe of dreamy harmony, and the moments where the record soars into a chorus, they make me feel like I’m sitting inside by a fire during a violent thunderstorm. But the greatness of this record is the subtle additions that become audible several listens in. And that’s when I fell in love.