The last five years have seen a glut of neo-new-wave bands backing cuddly vocals with laptop electronics: Postal Service, Styrofoam hell, half the Plug Research and Morr Music labels. There's a market here, mostly in the form of post-emo kids for whom heart-on-sleeve lyrics wedded to glitchy beats sounds completely natural, like post-millennial virtual campfire tunes. Under this dome, there's still no one making music as compelling as Ontario's Junior Boys, releasing here their second full-length. Leader Jeremy Greenspan so thoroughly absorbed the lessons of '80s gods like Soft Cell and New Order he's free to follow their ideas someplace new. So while his feather-light croon is newer-than-new romantic, his songs dwell on deceptively complex themes. And the beats, by Matthew Didemus, are up-to-the-minute even as they ghost the machine warmth of an earlier generation's circuitry. "Count Souvenirs" is close enough to Depeche Mode's "Strangelove" to raise an eyebrow, but here the homage feels reverent, even touching. The programming is cleaner and less jittery than debut Last Exit (then heard as a marked Timbaland influence) and the highs aren't quite as high, but So This Is Goodbye is a more consistent record, with a dominant mood a resigned melancholy shot through with glimmers of hope sustained throughout.
Mark Richardson writes about music for Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected].