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JR JR Review

by Marcy Donelson

JR JR is the third LP overall by the duo of Daniel Zott and Joshua Epstein, but the first after changing their band's name from Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. to simply JR JR -- a change in name only, as they offer up more of their melodic, cheerily ornate, harmony-attentive indie pop. Working again with co-producer Ben West, if they've modified anything they've dialed up the catchiness. Right from the get-go, "As Time Goes" supplies arena-friendly, pulsing synth hooks, a dancing bassline, handclaps, and a big melody with a good-natured chorus ("Sometimes I wish it never changed/But I'm fine, no one can stay the same"). The equally catchy but more easygoing "Gone" has whistling, melodic guitar, thumping kick-drum, gorgeous vocal harmonies, and another grand chorus with more wistful lyrics ("I can't be everything you want me to be/Finally I can see the light through the leaves/But it's all gone"). Despite the use of zingy electronics and an array of mechanical drums, they maintain a warmth and humanness to their sound led by frequent McCartney-esque turns of melody (or Carole King-esque on "Philip the Engineer") as well as Zott's affable vocal tone. "In the Middle" and "James Dean" change things up with some funk and R&B, respectively, the latter with processed vocals, synth bass, and the works. "Break My Fall" touches on themes of technology both lyrically and sonically, employing early video game-type timbres. Light on ballads, the song mix is much more frolicking than disjointed, all stamped with JR JR's blend of classic songcraft and contemporary, electronic-infused sound, and choruses that manage not to get too chanty or overcooked while still easy to digest. With all proper attention on the music, the rebranding will also likely go down easy.

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