Following jj has been like watching an adored pet slowly meet an untimely death, invariably sad with moments of cuteness and hope all along the way.
There was something fresh and promising about the duo’s “jj nº 1” single and jj nº 2 debut, featuring tracks that pushed far-apart genres like dream pop and hip-hop together. Their releases between then and their third studio album, V , were ultimately toned-down, airier, and seemingly less considered versions of their earliest releases. Unfortunately, V is no different.
In technicality, the album is more ambitious, the duo’s first that pushes out of the under-30-minute range. Moreover, it’s the first that doesn’t follow the “jj nº” title format. “Fågelsången”, a track released on jj’s website over a year ago, was posted with a note that ended: “So if you are ever confused, this is where you should come to. You are welcome to this universe. Love, jj.” Such warmth and openness definitely felt welcome, as fans had been wondering where jj went or if there were ever plans for another official album. Now, four years after the release of their previous record, the promise of V is finally realized.
With maybe one exception, each track on V comes across as confusingly empty, with the juice of the song either coming right before the end or never at all. As a whole, the albums works on a cohesion, transitioning from stronger, more powerful tracks (“Dynasti”, “Dean & Me”, and “All White Everything”) to the remaining eight cuts, which are breezy, quiet, and, sadly, quite boring, thanks to cheesier lyrics and lack of production effort. “Full”, “Inner Light”, “Hold Me”, “I”, and “Be Here Now” all whiz by without making an impression, each featuring a unique sound (and the duo should be commended for such subtlety) but none expanded enough to deserve or provoke a worthwhile listen.
“All White Everything” is not only the album’s most impressive track, but one that transcends the album to find the place some of the duo’s memorable earlier tracks reached. Here, vocalist Elin Kastlander successfully implements the album’s overall breezy, melancholic undertone, as Joakim Benon’s production naturally builds in tandem with Kastlander’s climactic “What you know about that?/ No, you don’t know a thing.”
It would be hard to see the actual “death” of jj before what could be a groundbreaking piece of work. That, though, is not V, the album itself a tiptoe step into a vast lake of unsure realization and experimentation. Hopefully, if we have to wait another four years for something from jj, it’ll be something a bit more effortful and less lackadaisical.
Essential Tracks: “All White Everything”