Swedish duo JJ have invariably been described with an almost tiresome regularity as 'mysterious'and 'enigmatic ' since the release of their debut album jj n° 2 in 2009. Perhaps it is down to the cryptic album titles or the way they incorporated hip hop influences into their weirdly offbeat brand of dream pop on the first two records.
For this their third album, they have gone uppercase - jj have become JJ, a statement perhaps that record number three represents a bolder, more expansive vision of what they are about. And so it proves to be - V is a wonderfully exotic assortment of dreamy, blissful pop tunes. The hip hop influences have receded further into the background with a greater emphasis on the sense of wide eyed wonder to be found in the music of bands like Sigur Ros and Mew. There is even a dash of Mercury Rev's classic nineties album Deserter's Songs in there somewhere.
Beautifully produced, there is always a danger that a record like this could just turn out to be nothing more than pure ear candy, a sugary combination of strings and electronica. But the songs are there, packed with memorable pop hooks and melodies, treading that fine line between melancholy and pure bliss. 'Dynasti', 'Dean and Me'and especially 'All White Everything'make for a fantastic introduction to this album, singer Elin Kastlander's child-like vocals filling the empty, decaying spaces between passages of gorgeously uplifting music.
When the mood takes them, JJ are not afraid to let their experimental side to take hold; 'Inner Light'splices a hip hop intro with a dreamy, string drenched ambient mid section and outro - it's not the most seamless or cohesive track, but somehow it works. The crunchy guitar riff of closing track 'All Ways, Always'sounds like à different band has just dropped in but as soon as Kastlander starts to sing, she ties it all together and we are off exploring the weirdly compelling world of JJ.
V is quite the trip - it's a gloriously messy collision of styles and genres, sometimes all within the same song. But at heart, this is pop music at its boldly beautiful and irresistible best.
Review by Paul Page | FOUR STARS