royksopp-junior-1When I was in the eighth grade, I remember buying a little snowboarding game called SSX 3. One of the big selling points that Electronic Arts was trying to push was the fact that it utilized a licensed soundtrack. However, I did not really feel that any of the songs added to the snowboarding experience, as hearing Yellowcard or Thrice did not give the sense that I was participating in a winter sport. However, there were two tracks in particular that I felt perfectly captured the essence of winter. The first was the Alpine Stars’ “Snow Patrol”, while the other one was “Poor Leno”, by the Norwegian duo Royksopp.

The latter, especially, made me feel as though snow was falling very gently outside, even though I lived in a suburb of Houston. Now, Royksopp have returned with their third proper album, Junior, and while none of the tracks on this album have the seasonal tones that made “Poor Leno” a mainstay for me, they have reasserted themselves as forerunners in a somewhat over saturated genre.

Lead single “Happy Up Here” kicks things off with a keyboard line that will likely stay in your head for weeks. It’s a very upbeat song, and instantly brings to mind the kind of stuff that would fit comfortably on a Justice album, although it can be argued that Royksopp may have had some amount of influence on the French duo. While it sounds like nothing else on Junior, this makes it all the more memorable, and marks it as an instant standout.

Throughout the course of the album, it is apparent that Royksopp are great producers; surrounding themselves with soundscapes that one can spend hours dissecting. The overall feel of this record is one that is very laid back, with the exception of a couple songs that sound as if they’re ready for the club. Each song carries many layers of synthesizers, strings, and big beats, all coming together to form a cohesive whole. This is especially highlighted on instrumental numbers such as “Royksopp Forever” and “Silver Cruiser”, as the listener can simply be carried away by the arrangements without having any vocals to focus on.

However, it is the tracks that contain vocals that provide some of Junior’s best moments. Robyn guests on “The Girl and the Robot”, while Anneli Drecker, and Lykke Li lend their voices to songs such as “Vision One” and “Miss It So Much” respectively. These vocalists’ performances compliment the music with a sense of effortlessness, as each seems right at home amid the big beats and layers of keys. However, it is the Knife’s Karin Dreijer that deserves the most credit for her contributions. Both “This Must Be It” and “Tricky Tricky” are standouts, as her distinct voice allows the music to come alive.

While this is a very solid collection of songs that Royksopp has put together, the album is not without it’s faults. The lyrical content on most of the tracks is not of any particularly great quality, as the songs tend to revolve around the standard themes of love and longing. This, however, is only a minor complaint, as electronic music is more about the music itself than the lyrics. Additionally, the album does start to drag a little bit towards the end, as “True to Life” and “It’s What I Want” lack the sort of immediacy and presence of hooks that made the preceding songs so appealing. Another point of contention, and this one is more subjective, is that none of these songs really bring to mind any sort of atmosphere outside of a dance club. Electronic music has the ability to transport people places, like to a snowy mountain village in much the same vain as “Poor Leno”. It is a little disappointing to see this potential not utilized to any great extent by Royksopp.

However, these critiques do little to dampen the overall experience. Junior is a very good album, one that will likely hold its own against many of the other electronic releases this year. This is the perfect type of music to either get you pumped up, or to just sit back and relax for a while with. Those who have any sort of interest in electronic music owe it to themselves to check this album out. Hopefully Royksopp will continue to release albums that focus more on consistency rather than excess, as it is that sort of quality that makes them so endearing.

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