Single Review: Jr Jr, “Same Dark Places”

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All hail the new wave of alt-pop, and the form it comes in: Jr Jr’s newest single, “Same Dark Places,” an anthem for reaching out to those struggling with mental illness or hard times.

This is a pure music festival sound– bouncy psychedelic with a percussive bass from outer space, meeting and playing with an acoustic guitar and occasional brass stabs. It would stand up to the likes of Grouplove, MGMT, Cage the Elephant, Passion Pit, etc. – alternative bands that encourage you to do drugs and “feel the music.” It is catchy, fun, and soothing psychedelic alternative.

The song is composed in a basic pop format with percussive synthesizers and a gentle, tropical melody behind it. If you close your eyes and listen, you can imagine a music video for it that looks exactly like Coachella. The lyric video, which has already been released, features bright watercolor splotches shifting back and forth in a technicolor portrait. At the center of the video is a figure in red with horns and black eyes, but the song is so upbeat that it does not seem malicious. The lyrics pop up one by one by bleeding through the background. Do you have a mental image? No? Go look at the video now. It will help you understand better.

The lyrics of the song are crucial, too. “I know everybody goes to the same dark places,” sings Josh Epstein, lead singer of Jr Jr. The band has decided in this song to tackle mental illness by raining down major keys and good energy. For this reason, I imagine, it was in the Netflix show 13 Reasons Why, the Netflix show about teen suicide which is garnering fans and controversy. Jr Jr reach out to their fans by using the sunny vibes of psychedelic music to improve their mental state. While some moments feel contrived – “Close your eyes and let go/ You weren’t meant to follow” – but for the most part it comes across as tremendously positive.

This is yet another link in the chain that has been Jr Jr’s continuing evolution as an alternative pop band. From the beginning album of “It’s a Corporate World,” they have had their signature big drum sound, but as time has gone on they have become better and better at creating fine-tuned pop songs. It has been a shift from their indie rock sound, but I believe that the band they are now would still be recognizable to the band they started out as in their basement back in 2009. This song displays more range in instruments than their first album and a slightly more expansive sound. The new album that Jr Jr is thought to be currently working on, according to posts on their social media, ought to be a splash of color and life.

The only thing I am not looking forward to? I can feel that “Same Dark Places” is going to get remixed to hell and back again by awful Soundcloud DJs. Oh, well. The original is great, and there will be more. Jr Jr will be in Phoenix for the Lost Lake Music Festival in October this year, and they are still in the studio – as usual – making more music. 7/10

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