Ladies of the Evening
If an album or tour has you questioning your feelings about an artist you liked, no doubt there are few things in music as relieving or gratifying as the “return to form.” Prepare, then, to get your arms wide open on hearing Junior, because you won’t just be embracing the Norwegian dance duo Royksopp for their third album but their secret weapons on it as well: the gaggle of girls guiding them.
On Junior, Torbjørn Brundtland and Svein Berge rediscover the focus absent from 2005’s miserable The Understanding. Here, Royksopp come in just three flavors: swirling, arpeggiated neo-disco like “This Must Be It” and “Tricky Tricky” that punch up the BPM from past successes like “Eple;” Air-inspired atmospherics such as the dreamy “Silver Cruiser;” and squeaky, squelchy, sparsely-sung electropop like “It’s What I Want” and the killer lead single “Happy Up Here.”
Royksopp’s savviest move, though, was enlisting some powerhouse pipes to make Junior even more of a centrist, populist album. Karin Dreijer (The Knife, Fever Ray), Robyn, Lykke Li, and most notably Anneli Drecker from long-lost ethereal pop act Bel Canto don’t do anything new under the sun, but playing to their individual strengths adds heft to material such as “Vision One” that might otherwise risk being directionless.
This roster of star power, combined with instrumentals you wish were already extended remixes, show Junior to be a misleading title. Royksopp, it seems, have finally grown up.