Collectively known as Justice, French electronic musicians Gaspard Augé and Xavier de Rosnay have been laying relatively low for the five years since releasing their 2011 sophomore effort, Audio, Video, Disco. Widely known for 2007 smash single “D.A.N.C.E.”, the duo catapulted to international recognition and consequently coasted on the success of debut album † (Cross) for quite some time. On third third proper full-length, Woman, Justice recapture their seminal sound for 10 strong new tracks. Risks are kept to a minimum and the Parisian pair deliver exactly what one would might hope for from them.
The anticipation for the beat to drop on lead single “Safe and Sound” is exactly what it felt like waiting for new Justice material to arrive in the first place. The slow build-up, bellowing choir, and explosive disco influences then seamlessly segue into “Pleasure”, another highlight reminiscent of their early days. “So many times we rise and fall,” they offer on the more mellow, ‘80s-tinged “Stop”. “Take us to the top/ So many nights/ So many memories.” Intentional or not, the song plays perfectly to the massive highs they reached and their subsequent complete disappearance, leaving it all to what had been fading memory.
In that time, though, it would seem that Augé and de Rosnay have learned some crucial life lessons. The lyrical content of Woman moves past that long time away and instead brims with hope for the future. While they’ve achieved the kind of “success” many artists only dream of, a lot of people still consider “D.A.N.C.E.” the duo’s only hit. The pressure to craft another Cross likely weighed heavy and could have left Justice instead endlessly experimenting in an effort to find something just as powerful. But instead, they stick with the formulas that’s always worked for them to begin with. Though each track follows those formulas and are executed brilliantly, that sometimes runs the risk of feeling stale.
The beautiful choir arrangements Justice have always leaned on carry “Stop” to a heavenly level, but then the album suddenly hits a wall in the form of “Chorus”. With its heavy industrial sound, the two minutes spent waiting for the “chorus” to actually kick in feel like an eternity. While it’s not necessarily poorly constructed, the mess of oddly placed guitar drags on for a painful seven minutes before giving way to “Randy”, the project’s second single. With its soaring vocals and subdued beat, it’s a welcome break from the intensity. Lines like, “Wake up/ Hear the call/ Don’t stop,” though vague, fit nicely into the empowerment theme that Augé and de Rosnay imbue throughout Woman.
After all, Justice mastered this vibe a long time ago. They craft uplifting and grandiose compositions that seem to go on forever without escape. They’re captivating, relentless, and powerful. Even on “Heavy Metal”, the initial creepy, haunted house-like organ erupts into an enveloping song of epic proportions.
As Woman reaches its tenth and final track, “Close Call”, it goes out with a whisper — a smart move on their part. Much like “One Minute to Midnight”, the album closer on Cross, “Close Call” lets the fire smolder after a high octane ride through the electronic wonderland. While Justice avoided breaking new ground with Woman, the 10 tracks still manage to remind us why we fell in love with them in the first place.
Essential Tracks: “Safe and Sound”, “Pleasure”, and “Stop”