12 Songs, 44 Minutes

EDITORS’ NOTES

The Swedish duo of Joakim Benon and Elin Kastlander use hipness and chutzpah in their elegant, atmospheric pop, appropriating and borrowing from artists like Dr. Dre and Lil Wayne, seemingly anomalous acts for a pop band to purloin from. But coloring their Enya-esque landscapes (framed in copious black eyeliner and gothic iciness) with the swagger of hip-hop proved to be a winning formula; check their tracks “Ecstasy” and “Still.” On V, hip-hop takes a back seat to pop, with nods to old-school royalty like Leslie Gore (“It’s My Party”) and some lyrical naivety of their own that rivals Gore’s time (“Something inside tells me we should be together”; “What is life if we can’t live forever as one?”). Kastlander matches Gore’s “I’ll cry if I want to” line with “God is here, say ‘hi’ if you want to,” delivered as dryly as a frozen creek bed. Gossamer guitar notes, stately synths, and strings surround lyrical expletives, shimmering reverb draped on Kastlander’s sweetly raspy voice. V is just as bewitching now as when the duo were a lower case entity (“jj”), and it's even a little bolder.

EDITORS’ NOTES

The Swedish duo of Joakim Benon and Elin Kastlander use hipness and chutzpah in their elegant, atmospheric pop, appropriating and borrowing from artists like Dr. Dre and Lil Wayne, seemingly anomalous acts for a pop band to purloin from. But coloring their Enya-esque landscapes (framed in copious black eyeliner and gothic iciness) with the swagger of hip-hop proved to be a winning formula; check their tracks “Ecstasy” and “Still.” On V, hip-hop takes a back seat to pop, with nods to old-school royalty like Leslie Gore (“It’s My Party”) and some lyrical naivety of their own that rivals Gore’s time (“Something inside tells me we should be together”; “What is life if we can’t live forever as one?”). Kastlander matches Gore’s “I’ll cry if I want to” line with “God is here, say ‘hi’ if you want to,” delivered as dryly as a frozen creek bed. Gossamer guitar notes, stately synths, and strings surround lyrical expletives, shimmering reverb draped on Kastlander’s sweetly raspy voice. V is just as bewitching now as when the duo were a lower case entity (“jj”), and it's even a little bolder.

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4:13

About JJ

The Swedish duo of Elin Kastlander and Joakim Benon, jj emerged on Gothenburg's Sincerely Yours Records in 2009, with a particularly gratifying take on the musical preoccupations common to much of the label's roster. Their neo-Balearic indie pop filters Air France's tropical haze, the Tough Alliance's penchant for slyly irreverent appropriation, and the Honeydrips' fragile twee pop melodicism into a beguilingly lush, gently electronic style reminiscent of prime Saint Etienne with a smoother, beachier sheen. They also had a strong hip-hop influence running through their sound, as evidenced by their using elements of Lil Wayne's "Lollipop" on their song "Ecstasy," as well as their covers of songs by T.I., Dr. Dre, and others (most notably on their 2010 Kills mixtape.) jj also initially shared their labelmates' propensity for mystery, favoring an artfully enigmatic presentation that engendered near-complete Internet silence concerning the group's identity and back-story, but the female vocalist (who was initially identified only as "Elin") provided a distinguishing sonic hallmark in the form of her warm, lusciously smooth alto. Their first pair of releases, the sequentially titled 7" jj Nº 1 and debut album jj Nº 2, appeared in spring 2009. After a move to Secretly Canadian stateside, jj's third album, jj Nº 3, was released in March 2010. Collaborations with rappers Ne-Yo and Don Trip surfaced in 2011, alongside a remix with fellow Swede Yves Saint Lorentz of Rebecca & Fiona's single "Bullets." The group's fourth official release, a two-song single titled jj Nº 4, surfaced in 2012, as did the High Summer EP. While the duo remained reasonably quiet for most of 2013, with their only release a collaboration with Adrian Lux on the song "Wild Child," they returned in August of 2014 with V, their third and most direct-sounding album to date. ~ K. Ross Hoffman & Rich Wilson

Songs

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