I like the idea of being a risk taker. By it’s very nature, it sounds adventurous and exciting. It sounds totally baller. It’s the essence of YOLO (and FIDLAR for that matter). But although I like the idea of being a risk taker in theory, I’m not a risk taker in practice. Not a true risk taker. I mean, sure, I’ll take calculated risks. And, yeah, I’ll bet small stakes. But I’m not not the type of guy to bet the house on nothing more than chance.
If I had to guess, based solely on Junip’s sophomore album, I’d say Jose Gonzalez and company are not risk takers either. There are no significant stylistic or creative leaps to be found on their sophomore album. There is no single track that could even be considered remotely surprising to a fan of their debut. In other words, this is not their Kid A.
But, to be very clear, that’s not a bad thing in my book. I mean, countless bands have developed well-respected and beloved catalogs while barely straying from as much as a familiar melody (including venerable bands that I love such as The Ramones or AC/DC). And, unlike some sophomore albums, Junip do take those small, calculated risks that make their latest offering sound like an honest-to-god progression from its predecessor.
For example, only the album opener, “Line of Fire,” and the melodic groove of “So Clear” would sound truly at home on their debut full length. The opener itself is a warm, atmospheric cut built around a gently flowing melody with thoughtful, restrained percussion, subtle synths, and, of course, Gonzalez’s cool and cedar-tinged vocals and acoustic guitar. In fact, aside from wool blanket of Tobias Winterkorn’s synths and the leathery, clean percussion of drummer Elias Araya, the tune would sound right at home on any of Gonzalez’s solo albums as well. But the same can’t really be said of the album’s second track “Suddenly.” Here, Gonzalez’s vocals are more of a (not unpleasant) after-thought tacked on to the waves of Winkerton’s slowly radiating synths, Gonzalez’s wandering finger picked guitar, and Araya’s subtle, jazzy drumming. Meanwhile, the same could be safe for the pounding Araya-led track “Villain” or the light, humming and chirping melody of “Walking Lightly.” As a result, the album manages to sound both unique and familiar at the same time.
In fact, I’ll go as far as to say that if you liked any of Gonzalez’s prior albums (with Junip or as a solo artist), you’ll like this one as well. It’s a solid, warm album that reflects skilled musicianship, intricate songwriting, and no small amount of subtlety. It’s a safe bet.
Meanwhile, Kasey’s recipe for Almond Flour and Bourbon Vanilla Pancakes is also risk free. This recipe is warming, comforting, and tasty. But with the almond flour and bourbon vanilla, there’s plenty of excitement without that risk (unless you count the chance of slightly burning your flapjacks at the edges that is). And let’s be honest, sometimes all we really want is something that’s new but not too unfamiliar. With this recipe (and this album) that’s exactly what you’ll get.