Junior Boys – Begone Dull Care (2009)



Even if the term sounds overly cliché, “late night music” may in fact be the best – and most common -classification for Junior Boys. One may begin to wonder how a style that reflects a specific period of time could overwhelm accurate musical classifications like electro-pop or indie-electronica to become a prevalently used phrase among fans and critics, but even a few listens to either of the duo’s first two albums, Last Exit and So This Is Goodbye would answer this. Vocalist Jeremy Greenspan is often caught in a whisper, barely but audibly emitting simplistically thematic lyrics over an impressive array of synthesizers and automated percussion. This description alone likely paints a common picture for fans of electronic music, but what Junior Boys have done so superbly is not only rooted in their mastery of contemporary electronica. Instead, their success comes from an entitled sense of originality in a genre that all too often lacks even a slight hint of it. Electronic acts nowadays seem to either be grouped into two categories: throwbacks or flawed innovators. Junior Boys are one of the few that can sincerely say that their style is unmatched. And, as far as the aspect of their music that makes late night listening so special? Apart from the fact that their sparkling array of synths sounds fittingly beautiful while looking at a starry sky, their originality encompasses subtle tendencies that can only be enjoyed while away from the stressfully bustling characteristics of daytime.

With such descriptive tendencies in mind, it would make sense to proclaim that Junior Boys’ most prominent attributes are those that defy the stereotypes of contemporary electronic music. The Canadian duo prefer smooth sax solos to messy synth explosions, hooks that do not derive from vocalized ardency as much as they do from the driving beat itself, and structures that are intricately progressive while still attempting to maintain the centralized pop ideology of accessibility. While their material may be too subdued to attract the largest crowd at some dance club, Junior Boys’ atypical approach has led to the respect of most fans who value nonconforming stylistic ventures. Previous efforts like “Birthday” and “High Come Down” have shown the duo in a more accessible light with widespread structural consistencies, but they always seem to offer semi-experimental attempts in the vein of “Bellona” and “Under the Sun” side-by-side with the others. Their debut, Last Exit, utilized both melodic minimalism and fast-paced, club-like automated percussion to create a sound that was strikingly nostalgic. It also proved to be extremely tranquil, a rare quality for such percussively-aided electronic pop. So This Is Goodbye saw the duo explore their pop influences in a more prominent light, maintaining the same serenely captivating electronic allure of Last Exit while making the overall result more concisely accessible. For a sophomore album, it was a rare achievement in that it equaled and, to some, exceeded the magnificent quality of work demonstrated on Last Exit.


For their third album, Begone Dull Care, Junior Boys have found somewhat of a middle point between both of their preceding releases. Their grasp of illustrious pop music remains strong, even as several aspects of their music have taken a more constricted approach. Ironically, this constraint proves to be beneficial on several tracks, most notably on efforts like “Sneak a Picture” and “Parallel Lines” where the use of percussion is extremely minimal compared to their previous, more hectically involved works like on “Birthday”. On “Parallel Lines”, the album’s opener, the percussion relies more on reverb and subdued flexibility than intensity. Combined with a bass arpeggio and a few percussively enabled samples, the introduction sounds surprisingly bare for Junior Boys’ standards. However, as the track later proves, its build-up is dependent on its success. When Greenspan’s vocals emerge nearly simultaneously with a brief electro-sax accompaniment and, later, a whirring synth pad, the listener is reminded of the infectious tranquility of gems like “Teach Me How to Fight” and “Neon Rider”. For “Parallel Lines” though, the chorus is the real treat. After all accompaniments fade out, Greenspan re-emerges with a chorus that is repeated well over one dozen times. However, because of both the brilliancy of its placement and the subtle melodic variety occurring in the background, it never becomes tiring or repetitive. When Greenspan aggressively responds with, “No lights, no show, no sex; that’s all you get,” during one of the latter chorus’ bridge, the ardent variation is utterly irresistible.

Another aspect of Begone Dull Care that slightly contrasts Junior Boys’ previous releases is Greenspan’s vocal delivery. He has always been masked behind a near-whisper and a substantial amount of reverb, an aspect that some call complimentary to Junior Boys’ style and others call an attempt to hide a weakness. While Greenspan does not turn into some gaudy diva on this album, his voice is more prevalently involved in the songs. On “Bits and Pieces”, one of the duo’s most infectiously concise efforts to date, he alternates between a falsetto and suave electro-pop flamboyance. The song’s structure is simple enough, but he brings the track to unforeseen heights during its bouncy chorus and seductively minimalistic verses. “Hazel” shows more of this vocal swagger, whether in the snappy verses or his disco-y “ooh, ooh, ooh” whimper during the club-like series of synthesized chords toward the track’s conclusion. These moments are surely excellent, but few can rival the brilliance of “Sneak a Picture”. Beautiful from its inception, both scratchy bass-like and fluttery synths collide in “Sneak a Picture” to establish an initially memorable melody that does nothing but get even better. When Greenspan’s vocals enter the picture, he is only accompanied by a squirmy synth at the end of each measure and a high-pitched arpeggio. The latter remains steady for most of the track, but the track’s brilliance derives primarily from a series of ingeniously constructed ideas that include a chorus that somehow finds the perfect meeting place between cohesiveness and precisely executed variety. The use of a saxophone may raise some eyebrows due to its simplistic usage, but considering that it takes up such a minimal part of the song I do not take much issue with it.

Considering that Begone Dull Care was written as an ode to animator Norman McLaren, it is hardly a surprise that the track entitled “The Animator” is also one of the album’s most engaging efforts. Slick would be the best word to describe this one, with a contrasting array of twinkling synths and low bass notes colliding similarly to “Sneak a Picture” to once again establish a beautiful introduction. Once this song kicks off, you can almost begin to see Greenspan’s thematically appropriate words go into motion over a bustling arpeggio and the warm embrace of a piano. “In through your hands, out your mouth in your whisper,” he sings during the track’s greatest hook, a collision of brassy synths, serenely atmospheric pads, and high-pitched arpeggios. With other gems like “Parallel Lines” and “Sneak a Picture” attributing to this ode just as well in both their namesake and content, Junior Boys have once again crafted a majestically cohesive album that fits nicely alongside both Last Exit and So This Is Goodbye in an impressively consistent discography that shows one of this decade’s best acts in electronic pop. 9.0/10


Junior Boys – Sneak a Picture



Junior Boys – Bits and Pieces



Official Web Site



Mike Mineo

I'm the founder/editor of Obscure Sound, which was formed in 2006. Previously, I wrote for PopMatters and Stylus Magazine.

Send your music to [email protected].


  1. I can’t believe you think it’s cool to make money by having a website that posts (without permission) music that people worked very hard on

  2. lol.

    So I guess “Bitch” is either:
    – new to the Web.
    – the long lost son of that f-ing idiot Lars from Metallica who also crapped all over innovation to make sure his oh-so-important-art-for-money didn’t dissipate from Napster.
    – an idiot himself.

    If you actually looked around the site, you’d see the author says let him know if you want your music taken down. Also, Bitch (ahem), it’s called marketing. I personally have downloaded from Amazon 3 albums from artists I discovered here. I posit this is good for artists.

    Finally – IMO, this is how art should be. Just because the music industry started by making floods of money off the talent of others doesn’t necessarily mean they still should. Just because musicians at one time could make loads of money selling storage (CDs) doesn’t mean they still can. Technology is moving. Artists need to learn how to move with the technology, not against it.

  3. I was mainly referring to the blog owner thinking it’s perfectly ok to make money (google ads) by stealing other peoples work. Making a living while possibly taking earnings away from artists you “love” is definitely not this new and progressive business model you’re kidding yourself with.

  4. I won’t speak for Mike Mineo but I’m guessing the couple hundred dollars he’s making per year, if that, isn’t his intention for writing. Do you read the blog? He’s doing this because he loves music. No one writes in-depth prose like this blogger, about artists scarcely anyone has heard of, unless they spend hours listening to music. That’s love. Plus, he’s giving airtime to a slew of bands people would never have heard of if it wasn’t for his blog. He never posts full albums and he always provides links where to buy.

    I hear your point. I just think it’s antiquated.

  5. @Slats you are completely right. In my experience, artists are honored to have their work featured and reviewed on a site like this. I feature artists on my website and have had submissions from around the world asking for me to showcase their work. This blog offers free publicity and well-thought commentary for independent musicians. I support it completely. I doubt Mike has had anyone ask to be removed from the blog.

  6. Regardless of your level of affection, it’s irresponsible to leak tracks this early. I mean, the album isn’t out until late March or something.

  7. Irresponsible to leak tracks?
    Are you cats/gals like 60 years old? Sittin ’round the ol radio and waiting for Wolfman Jack to spin the licorice pizza?
    This is what it is. Welcome to the new reality we call modern social media.

    If this is your band, tell the blogger you want your tunes off, and – again I don’t want to speak for the writer – but I’d bet he’ll pull it down right away.

    Oh – and whatever you do, don’t do a search for any of the following keywords. It may literally blow your minds:

    Again – my opinion – but If I was producing music right now, this is the kind of blog I’d hope would review and post a few tunes.

  8. Well, I guess Domino hasn’t gotten back to “Bitch” yet, or they see this for the great word of mouth it is… because they’re still here. Thanks for sharing these tracks, they’re brilliant.

    And, wanted to add that I just bought two Dr. Dog CDs (Fate and their previous, We All Belong) after reading your review of them in your Best of 2008 and listening to the MP3s you posted. Two albums I would not have otherwise bought as performed by a band I wouldn’t have otherwise known, if I hadn’t checked them out here.

  9. This album sounds awesome, and I’m glad I heard it hear first. Definitely will be buying it in April. Junior Boys are my fave. Great review.

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