Aaron Matthews and an overdose of aebleskivvers are believed to be responsible for the absence of Junior Senior.
With Junior Senior on hiatus and the Go! Team missing in action, optimism and sincerity are qualities sadly missing from the indie rock scene. The Brooklyn based duo of Tom Van Buskirk and George Langford have been putting in work to remedy the situation, having released a number of handpressed mixtapes of starry-eyed sampladelic pop over the past two years. No Mas is the band’s debut, collecting 15 of the band’s trademark sound collage pop songs.
Javelin also share the aforementioned Danish duo’s unironic love of deeply uncool sections of pop history: the band has a gift for mining dollar bins for song fragments that hit the pleasure centre perfectly: from the chunky Motown guitar licks on “Intervales Theme” to the Thriller-esque R&B pop futurism on “On It On It”, or “We Ah Wi”’s breezy yacht rock keyboards, the album offers a plethora of bright summer jams. No Mas reprises several of the highlights from Jamz N Jemz, but the new material is of the same pedigree, and occasionally exceeds their past work. The songs here rely less on goofy, ear-catching vocal samples than the band’s early work, and demonstrate a much stronger grasp of dynamics and song construction. There’s also a more overtly hip-hop aesthetic to many of these songs. J Dilla and DJ Shadow are clear influences, the Philly Soul lushness of “Dep” being particular evocative of Donuts’ glazed, up-at-3am vibe. The duo work magic with sample chops, finding beauty in brief snippets to create something insidiously catchy. The wonderful synth pop of “Vibrationz” comes closest to encapsulating the Javelin aesthetic in a song, but “Off My Mind” perfects it; it’s a sweetly handspun ballad which pairs tumbling drums and pseudo-baroque synths with the best use of a kalimba I’ve heard all year.
As with similar projects by the Avalanches or Quiet Village, No Mas offers a warmly nostalgic sound that joins many different sounds under a unified sonic aesthetic. Occasionally, the band tips too deeply in kitsch; “Moscow 1980”’s Eighties pop pastiche feels a bit too on-the-nose to be enjoyable. But missteps aside, this is perfect junkshop pop that will only improve as the days get longer, ideal for daydreaming or a walk in the park. The restless creativity of childhood pressed onto wax. Put it in your Walkman. –Aaron Matthews