It’s three years since Junip‘s last full-length record. When the trio released Fields back in 2010, the limelight was still very much on frontman José González. At that time, he was still riding on the crest of a wave with his solo LPs, Veneer and In Our Nature, which courted both critical and commercial success, and Junip was seen by many as something of pastime for the Swedish troubadour. But with only a handful of singles trickling out for public consumption since then, his latest collaboration with Elias Araya and Tobias Winterkorn now looks to be the main focal point of González’s creative efforts.
The songs on Junip still share traits with the singer-songwriter’s other work, though the lyrics can be sombre and can be shrouded by the double-tracked nature of their delivery. The songs are also mellow – drawing their power from a sort of quiet expectancy rather than relying on bombast to carry them through. But with Araya’s measured percussion, and Winterkorn’s humming organ and warm synths, there are added layers, grooves and textures which not only serve González’s guitar-playing and cushioned voice, but actually drive the songs forward.
‘Line of Fire’, the first track from the record to see the light of day, is a perfect example of this dynamic. “And you notice it matters / Who and what you let under your skin”, sings González as the song builds with purpose, achieving an unexpected, almost anthemic quality. It’s something that’s shared with other tracks, such as ‘Walking Lightly’ and ‘Your Life, Your Call’, which also possesses a hooky chorus that nicely exposes the three-piece’s pop underbelly. Then there are more reflective moments, songs such as ‘Suddenly’, ‘Head First’ and ‘Baton’, which provide a welcome variance in tempo.
It may not be all that different from what they’ve produced before it, but Junip is still a breathtakingly beautiful collection of delicately-crafted, slow-burning prog-folk earworms. And all along there’s a steady-as-she-goes consistency that permeates every corner the album, which should help it become a mainstay of the listener’s playlist for quite a while. What more could you ask for?