Between coming out with amusingly nonsensical pronouncements about the origins of their music, Röyksopp have found time to release some albums. Junior is their third, making them perhaps surprisingly unproductive given that their debut, Melody A.M., was released way back in 2001.
In that time, Torbjørn Brundtland and Svein Berge have pretty much towered over the Norwegian electronica scene. Junior, however, sees a major influence from neigbouring Sweden creeping in – with Robyn, Lykke Li and Karin Dreijer Andersson of The Knife offering vocal assisstance. Frequent collaborator and fellow Norwegian Anneli Drecker also makes an appearance, however. Apparently, Junior is be followed up by a sequel album called (not surprisingly) Senior later in the year… but there’s little to signal that in the music on display here. You might have thought that Danish popsters Junior Senior would make an appearance, but apparently they’ve broken up… shame.
It’s often the work with those vocal co-conspirators that shows off Junior at its best. Whilst none of the songs featuring them is quite a solid-gold classic, together they make an excellent little canon of slick pop, which owes much to the fact that the songs have been successfully matched to the singers whose vocal personality matches them most effectively. Possibly the most successful is Robyn’s appearance on ‘The Girl and the Robot’, a curious tale of an ill-fated romance between a girl and… a robot. Firm beats and sturdy synthesizers have proven to be an effective platform for the Swede, and the song is every bit as alluring as ‘With Every Heartbeat’, her triumphant collaboration with producer Kleerup. Strings make an appearance at the end of the song, and re-appear on ‘Röyksopp Forever’ , which is dominated by them. The song, a blatant act of self-mythologizing, seems to cast the pair as a Scandinavian ELO, combining their usual palette with the tried and tested grandiosity of classical instrumentation. Far from the ill-advised mashup a sceptic might expect, it’s actually rather enthralling when it reaches its intense climax.
That track is followed by Lykke Li’s outing, which while not quite as strong as Robyn’s, is nevertheless entertaining and intriguing. An ode to simpler, analogue times, it’s lyrically quite endearing and, as a song, it’s nearly up there with the best on Li’s rather nifty album from last year, Youth Novels.
This album sees Röyksopp trying to effectively accomadate two sides to their musical personality – on the one hand, there is their flair for tightly-wound, incisive pop; on the other, a commitment to more exploratory instrumental interludes. What we end up with is a well-judged balance of both, forming an album which is able to cover quite a lot of thematic and textural ground without lacking cohesion. The album does sag a little in its second half, though, and sacrifices a little pace which could have helped alleviate this. Nevertheless, it’s a fun and engaging record which sees Röyksopp make the most from their musical toolbox and collaborators. Sometimes an album lacks a stand-out track because it’s just not very good. In this case, it’s just tough to pick one out, as what Röyksopp have done is to craft – and it is crafted – a dynamic, varied electronic pop album which is very good indeed.