Having managed a mere 2 EPs prior to Fields in their five year life span, Junip – yet to make much of a name for themselves – have had to get used to the focus remaining firmly on front man José González. The mellow songwriter and vocalist, in truth, seems to use the band as a vehicle to flesh out his fresh-sounding folk-rock with a little much-needed meat on the bones. Junip don’t have quite the subtlety González offers as a solo artist, but their backing allows the singer to produce a much more substantial and diverse record.
In amongst the expected folk and the dark-pop of his alternative ballads, there’s also a weighty element here. ‘Howl’, for example, features deep-voiced, almost country vocals layered nicely over a wall-of-sound static backdrop, and still manages to throw in a few little dinks on the xylophone along the way.
As usual, though, González is at his best when he keeps it simple, and uses the band to simply add a third dimension to his substantial vocal prowess. ‘Always’ sounds like a song straight out of the World Cup soundtrack, with substantial African influences and a beautifully flowing minor-key chorus. ‘Don’t Let It Pass’ falls back in that alt-ballad category, with some soaring vocals and a nicely paced backing beat, declaring “nothing is compromised, nothing is lost.”
While Fields experiments with a few interesting twists and turns along the way, especially in terms of instrumentation and influences that you might not find on a straight-up José González record, it’s largely a case of ‘business as usual’. Only the vocals being spread over a more enticing selection of rhythms and flirtations with a more driving style every so often mark this out as something new. Then again, most would argue González didn’t need a big change, so why should an impressive backing band make a difference? Just don’t expect a revolution.