Jonquil | One Hundred Suns (Dovecote)

It’s ‘hit the back button the second it ends to hear it again’ outstanding, which is what the entire record aspires to but only intermittently achieves.

Ambling down the narrow, rain-slicked lanes of a moonlit English town, you arrive at the address your buddy texted you that afternoon. Naturally, no one answers your knock on the door, so you let yourself into the shabby, side street Victorian. The crowd is mostly pasty university students and local hipsters ironically draped in cheap plastic leis; the decor, best described as junk shop modern. In the main room downstairs, there’s an alcove littered with borrowed mics, sticker-plastered guitars, brass instruments leaned up against a wall, a tiny old synth on a flimsy stand and a beat up drumkit. Before you can say ‘alcopop,’ the owners of this still life pop in from the kitchen. They’re looking dour in trench coats and haircuts last seen in 25-year-old Echo & the Bunnymen press kit photos. Only, underneath, they’re wearing surf trunks and sleeveless tees, and they’ve got Ray-Bans stuffed in their pockets. They pick up their instruments, count off the beat and launch into the first number, one that’s equal measures white-boy worldbeat guitar, herky-jerky, wispy-vocal indie and synthpop bleeps/bloops. They smile. Caught off guard, you smile back at the upbeat display from such a slate-gray bunch and start to sway as the trumpet dudes join the fray.
Jonquil’s One Hundred Suns is the album you’re compelled to buy from the bass player as they’re packing up. “Fighting Smiles” combines the slightly fey folk-pop of Freelance Whales and a collegiate, less weird-folk Shins. “Get Up” takes that template and adds interesting polyrhythmic drumming, treated guitars and a small helping of Aztec Camera style Northern pop class. Both “Pillow Quest” and “I Know I Don’t Know” expand on the formula, incorporating booty-moving horn charts to great effect. The latter is a particular highlight, full of twinkling, treble-y guitars that flit up and down, and anchored by a complex multi-tempo arrangement that still manages to come off as danceable thanks to a confident, inventive rhythm section. “Sunday Night” continues the party with a rousing West Indies vibe, synth-organ bursts and a well-utilized hint of Specials upbeat.
“It Never Rains” is the album’s centerpiece, loaded with clarion-call Graceland-hearkening guitars and a more straight up Caribbean bounce, and prone to induce grooving in your car seat (as much as can be done while safety belted in, anyway). It’s ‘hit the back button the second it ends to hear it again’ outstanding, which is what the entire record aspires to but only intermittently achieves.
Jonquil have an admittedly satisfying bread and butter sound, and they’re not afraid to stick to it. This makes for a record that’s a bit derivative, especially in the dead ringer Paul Simon/Vampire Weekend guitar sound, but it’s never gimmicky, and there are enough minor tricks and experiments throughout the record to elevate it past mundane. Armed with scintillating production values, well-written songs and legit melodic gifts, this is a group that needs to hone its attack, but that’s also already a long way towards living up to its potential. B | Mike Rengel
RIYL: Freelance Whales, the Shins, Vampire Weekend, going to a tropical-island themed art school house party

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