Junior Boys burst onto the scene a couple years back with their somewhat austere, but excellent Last Exit, an electro-pop gem that mixed ultra-clean synth lines with crisp beat programming and soulful vocals from Jeremy Greenspan. Right after the release of that record, half the duo (Johnny Dark) left, and Greenspan was joined by friend and producer Matt Didemus. After several tours across the US (where the duo played with both Mouse On Mars and Caribou) and the world, the two set off working on their latest album.
There are several differences between their debut and this release, and nearly all of them help push the album into an even poppier realm. First off, the beats aren't so skittery and jittery (most likely due to the absence of Dark on programming), but instead are proficient without being extravagant and yet serve the songs very well. Secondly, So This Is Goodbye sounds much less austere than Last Exit. It still rides the minimal tip most of the time, but it's not nearly as cold sounding, with more playful synth sounds and little vocal samples everywhere.
Both of these things are apparent from the get go, as "Double Shadow" builds some nicely layered synths into a small crescendo while little soul-styled vocal samples add punctuation to the more crooning, breathy words of Greenspan. "The Equalizer" is even more upbeat, with alternately growling and bubbly analogue melodies playing off snappy beats and some subtly-treated vocals.
One of the best songs on the album (and indeed maybe of the year, from anyone) is the amazing "In The Morning," which again weaves some heaving vocal samples in alongside quiet guitar, a delirious synth arpeggio, and some of the most soaring, infectious vocal melodies that Greenspan has ever let loose with. "Like A Child" takes another delicious and repetitive analogue arpeggio and juxtaposes it with some more sparse sections to help the track breath a little bit before an ending coda that works wonders.
The latter third of the album is quite a comedown after the first seven tracks (even though all of them aren't exactly bangers), and if the album has a weak spot, it's during this section. The group takes Sinatra and sends him into an outer-space hibernation on the haunting cover of "When No One Cares," while the album closer of "FM" sounds a little like Erasure on heavy narcotics crossed with "Goodbye Horses" by Q Lazzarus. Of course, picking on the last three tracks is a minor quibble on an disc that's solid throughout. Even more engaging than their debut, So This Is Goodbye is another amazing album from Junior Boys, and one of the better releases of the year.