The gentle waves of buzz surrounding jj's curious marvel of a debut quickly lapped beyond the duo's native Gothenburg shores, creating considerable expectations for its follow-up, released jointly -- a mere nine months after jj Nº 2 made its initial splash -- by Sweden's Sincerely Yours and landlocked Amerindie bulwark Secretly Canadian. Thus aptly adjectivally equipped, jj Nº 3 takes few chances, very much offering more of the same from these sincerely secretive Swedes: it's virtually identical to its predecessor in titling strategy, length (nine songs in a fleeting 27 minutes), and sound. That sound -- lush, glassy, placidly grooving electronic indie pop with wispy tropical and new age undercurrents -- counts for a lot, and those won over by Nº 2's surreally syrupy vibe (equal parts childlike sweetness and narcotic haze), or by Elin Kastlander's lusciously lazy vocals, will find themselves woozily wooed once again. But listeners craving a bit more substance may find it a bit of a bum trip; songwise, Nº 3 falls sadly, decidedly short of its counterpart's dizzying highs. The opener, a spare, somber piano-and-vocals cover of the Game's "My Life" (more specifically, Lil Wayne's chorus hook) is oddly, bluesily effective, but it still feels like an arch, inscrutable goof (particularly given the unmissably cheeky interpolation of ATC's "Around the World") -- either way, it's easily the most incongruous and attention-getting thing here, and once you get past it the rest of the album just sort of drifts by. "And Now" sets the familiar, understated tone, and is a quiet highlight; "Let Go" is better, a wistful, breezily escapist daydream complete with lyrical references to beaches, suntans, and heroin. "Voi Parlate, Lo Gioco" suffers from a nagging similarity to Nº 2's "Masterplan," but it does offer a lovely moment of lyrical self-reference "when the music stops...then the music drops." Otherwise, there's plenty of sonic seductiveness to get lost in; there's just not a whole lot to hold on to -- a partial (but hardly crushing) letdown from an outfit that was previously firing hard on all fronts. Whether the dip in quality is the result of a rush to create new material or whether these are simply the lesser leftovers from the same sessions that produced Nº 2, here's hoping jj take some time (and maybe one of those epically blissful vacations their music conjures so evocatively) to make sure Nº 4 comes out fully baked.
jj No. 3 Review
by K. Ross Hoffman