If you can imagine a man’s voice concurrently orgasming and slicing into desolation, then you can imagine the voice of Junior Boys singer Jeremy Greenspan. If you can imagine this febrile plea cascading over synthetic bass loops and grinding drumbeats that build sonorously like spun pottery, then you can imagine the particular wile that wafts abundantly from the band’s sophomore album, “So This Is Goodbye.” With 2004’s “Last Exit,” Greenspan and his ilk introduced us to their brand of eminently danceable moping, but with “Goodbye” they warp it to gently throbbing near-perfection.
Hailing from Hamilton, Ontario, the Junior Boys ooze a novel melange of beats hard enough to cut diamond and zaftig lyrical ichor. Comprised of Greenspan and confederate Matt Didemus, the band’s elegant timbre has ripened appreciably since their 2004 debut. Whereas “Last Exit” rose at uncertain angles from the bowels of electro-pop savvy, “Goodbye” sheds the pubescent mars that sporadically blemished its predecessor. For their second coming, the Junior Boys do not slouch but rather sashay towards Bethlehem to be born.
“Goodbye” abounds with irresistibly dance-inspiring tracks tinged with mourning. Like dancing near — but not with — your fervent crush, listening to the album incites a sort of absent-minded euphoria. It feels like either party music for loners or alone music for partiers. Perhaps the key to this peculiar mood lies in the Junior Boys’ lovingly spreading their pop aesthetic over a greater canvas than is generally given to catchy hooks. Rather than condense their arresting opiate into a three-minute solid, they allow it to seep outward into five- and six-minute crevices untouched by the likes of Justin Timberlake. When combined with Greenspan’s sweetly desperate crooning, the result is an emotive cocktail that provides the sensation of doing the electric slide at your grandmother’s funeral.
Nowhere is this anomalous mien more tenderly engulfing than on the track “In The Morning.” The song unfurls with a solitary bass jolt and a trickling arpeggio that slowly melds into a simultaneous eruption of Greenspan’s distracted moan and a potent techno harmony. With lyrics detailing the sorrow of a stale love affair exposed to the harsh morning and enough funk to work your junk into early retirement, “In The Morning” proudly brandishes the Junior Boys’ dejected energy. Elsewhere, on “The Equalizer” the band transforms an opening with emo-like atmosphere into a crushing centrifugal resonance before rapidly cutting out into urgent vocals, hurling the listener back and forth between club gyrations and indie yearning.
Before descending into its buzzing and uncertain coda, “Goodbye” cavorts through several more up-tempo downers — including the tinny head-bopper “Like A Child,” which caters the album’s most singular minute of discotheque ecstasy, and “Count Souvenirs,” which slowly accumulates into a gentle juggernaut of floating synth. The finale itself halts the relentless progress of the album’s bass beats for a more wistful swan song. “When No One Cares,” the album’s penultimate track, squeezes the eponymous Frank Sinatra tune into a frail radio-signal emanating distantly from some depressed flaneur’s window. Throughout the song Greenspan’s peal seems so on the verge of disintegration that you can almost feel Old Blue Eyes tearing up. After drifting through this catatonic reverie the album finishes with “FM,” a light elevation that revitalizes without thrusting back into the conflicted peaks that loom over the preceding tracks. Like each individual song, “Goodbye” as a whole drags the listener through elated pinnacles before ultimately depositing him on a nearby plateau.
Junior Boys’ new album is not without its faults — both “First Time” and “Caught In A Wave” seem superfluous, and the leap from gettin’ down to being down is often jarring. Quibbles aside, though, Greenspan and Didemus have conjured a melancholy musical genie that more than grants its listeners’ wishes. As an album, “So This Is Goodbye” capers, energizes, pines and enervates like a sultry dance floor full of spurned lovers.