Call them the Tender Alliance. The stark, iconically "edgy" cover of jj's tersely titled N° 2, with its splatter of blood and grayscale cannabis leaf, seems almost comically incongruous when contrasted with the wispy, blissful sweetness of the music contained inside, which offers nary a tough edge. True, the album does feature one blatant drug track, with a hip-hop sample to boot -- the slow-rolling, reverb-drenched "Ecstasy," which lifts the drippy keyboard line and swaggering stutter-step cadence of Lil Wayne's "Lollipop" -- but the effect is more sluggish (or, to go by the lyrics, huggish) than thuggish. Elsewhere, the pervading haze is not so much psychotropic as simply tropic, with steel pans, timbales, and talking drums flitting up through the burbling electronic undercurrents which, along with singer Elin's bewitchingly languorous alto, transform songs like "Things Will Never Be the Same Again" and "My Love" from perfectly lovely gentle indie pop tunes into something quite a bit more special and intriguing. Even at their most stripped-down, as on closer "Me and Dean," which consists of little more than some lazy acoustic strumming, a bit of background chatter, and a repeated refrain half-borrowed from Taylor Dayne's 1987 hit "Tell It to My Heart," jj can be entirely endearing; their finest moments -- the intricate instrumental "Intermezzo," whose chintzily Baroque, chiming synth motif floats atop a bed of tabla, beatbox bossa nova, and woozy sound fragments, and especially the gloriously lush, groove-infused "From Africa to Malaga," which features some arrestingly lovely self-harmonizing -- are nothing short of intoxicating. The whole affair lasts less than 27 minutes, but it feels satisfyingly complete as an album, with a balmy, carefree ambience and a level of sonic detail that both invite and richly reward repeated listens.
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AllMusic Review by K. Ross Hoffman