Junip’s sophomore, self-titled album is every adjective that you have come to expect from a Jose Gonzalez project: relaxing, laid-back, peaceful, quiet. While this is far from a bad thing, Junip never seems to be able to rise above these descriptors and become more than easy to listen to background music. That being said, Junip does manage to create a wonderful atmosphere with just enough highlights to make the album worthwhile.
The best part of Junip is the way that frontman Jose Gonzalez, drummer Elias Araya and synth player Tobias Winterkorn melt their sounds together to create a lush and mysterious atmosphere. Gonzalez’s nylon strings and Winterkorn’s droning synths combine so beautifully and comfortably, the music just sounds so natural, which is why Junip makes for such lovely background music. The issue is that not much lies beneath the surface. The airy melodies fail to captivate and Gonzalez’s light and whispering vocals do little but fade immediately into the background. I can’t help but think that a more energetic vocalist would help to elevate the music to more than an exercise in mood building.
There are certainly highlights to be found on Junip, however they are mostly delegated to the beginning of the album, making it feel a bit front-loaded. “Line of Fire” builds from a simple rhythm played on guitar until the listener is washed over with strings and synths. “So Clear” employs a similar strategy, with guitar and percussion working mostly as rhythm while Winterkorn adds layers of synths, building up to one of the few choruses on the album that manages to soar.
All in all, Junip is an album that is consistent to the point of tedium. The clever ideas are overused and the retreaded ideas wear thin quickly. All of the songs are easy to listen to, but never capture enough attention to escape fading into the background. Although there are no unpleasant songs here, Junip fails to measure up to the sum of its parts.
Highlights- “Line of Fire”, “So Clear”, “Your Life Your Call”
Check out Junip via Spotify below: