I headed out to catch the Swedish three-piece because I loved the solo work of Junip lead singer Jose Gonzalez. Gonzalez released an album titled Veneer in 2003 that stuck with me because of his gossamer baritone and intricate classical guitar work. Junip encompasses electric guitars, bass, drums, organ and a Moog that adds a lusher, fuller sound to his delicate solo style.
The overall effect of last Tuesday night's music was of a lost cut from the Garden State soundtrack. Any of the songs performed could easily have been sandwiched between — and probably owed to — the work of Coldplay, Colin Hay, and Nick Drake. Each song had the same laid-back and soothing atmospherics, rainy day ambiance, intricate picking, and post-coital purrs. That being said, there's a fine line between serene and boring, and Junip stumbled over the line a few times.
"Black Refuge" brought back the Garden State memories, with the band's Zero 7 And Thievery Corporation influences shining through in its ethereal softness and world-music twinges flowing through the music and prompting foot-tapping and head-bobbing to the excellent organ work and overall sublimity of the track. "In Every Direction" was another favorite, hypnotic and alluring and well-suited to Gonzalez's soothing vocals and the harmonious interplay between the musicians. "In Every Direction" closed the set, and the band returned to encore with "Tide" and "Always," both from 2010's Fields. The refrain fro "Always" was lodged in my head for quite some time after the show.
When a concert is great, you just feel it — it's a gut thing. While I was impressed by Junip's performance and how they incorporated bongos, alto saxophone, and even a recorder into the mix, I didn't get that special visceral feeling that pushed it over the edge from pretty good to great. Perhaps it was an off-night, or the acoustics of the joint — it certainly wasn't the turn-out, as Crowbar was packed full — but in an age of Nickleback and Pitbull, pretty good is still pretty damn good. And it was still one of the better shows of the year.