Junior Boys – Waiting Game (City Slang) Album Review: A Contemplative Sonic Walk

Waiting Game, the latest full-length album from Junior Boys, is the Ontario duo of Jeremy Greenspan and Matt Didemus’ first album in six years. Billed as contemplative, the nine-track record certainly sets the tone for such sentiments from its very first notes. “Must Be All the Wrong Things” creeps in with a synth that builds from what feels like a a flatline to digital crystal singing bowl; hard-to-discern vocals bring forth a sense of relaxed mystery, as gentle chords shimmer and wave to add complex detail to what may otherwise be straight-forward simplicity.

These textures continue to ebb and flow throughout Waiting Game, which is mellow and poppy in alternating measure, but always possesses a quality of airiness and presents more than meets the eye. The best indicator of the duo’s transformation, though, may be to see Junior Boys stacked up against their own music. A comparative side-by-side listen between Waiting Game and their prior records, 2016’s Big Black Coat and 2011’s It’s All True makes blatantly obvious the frenetic energy of the previous versus the ease of the present.

Junior Boys - Waiting Game Album Review

In Waiting Game‘s press release, Greenspan shares that the album was inspired by long walks he took along Hamilton, Ontario’s lake and waterfall trails while listening to music from his old musical heroes. Emerging from that process, he mused, “A weird fact of the perception of sound is that you hear more accurately at lower levels of volume… What if I created an immersive environment of what he has named ‘peripheral music’, as it were, by recording huge amounts of material but layering it imperceptibly into as quiet a place as I can?”

Today, Junior Boys feels like a brisk walk on a clear fall or winter day, where you can hear every branch snap underfoot; before, their genius was more maximalist, like one cooped up indoors and with energy to spare. The resulting effect is that Waiting Game has a quality of being listenable on repeat for hours on end, with new details floating in and out of one’s consciousness upon every listen. Synths, saxophones, vocals, and percussive elements layer upon one another with an ethereal quality, creating an environment that feels sonically rich yet not overwhelming.

A standout moment sits at the apex of the album, with the back-to-back tracks, “Thinking About You Calms Me Down” and “Yes II.” Each has its own mantra-like qualities — each an aural massage that at once dispels any worries and affirms one’s feelings, even when they may be melancholy. Likewise, “Samba on Sama” and “Waiting Game” pair to provide a smooth and calming outro to the entire record — as though one has returned from their outdoor walk, blissfully restored, and is ready for the calm.

When one considers that Waiting Game emerged from the endless waiting game that is the COVID-19 pandemic and the solace one can find in nature, the record also takes on another layer of meaning. Perhaps it is time for everyone to breathe at least a little bit easier — and putting this record on repeat may just be the move to get one in the mood.

Junior Boys - Waiting Game Album Review

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Written by
Vee Hua 華婷婷

Vee Hua 華婷婷 (they/them) is a writer, filmmaker, and organizer with semi-nomadic tendencies. Much of their work unifies their metaphysical interests with their belief that art can positively transform the self and society. They are the Editor-in-Chief of REDEFINE, Interim Managing Editor of South Seattle Emerald, and Co-Chair of the Seattle Arts Commission. They also previously served as the Executive Director of the interdisciplinary community hub, Northwest Film Forum, where they played a key role in making the space more welcoming and accessible for diverse audiences.

Vee has two narrative short films. Searching Skies (2017) touches on Syrian refugee resettlement in the United States; with it, they helped co-organize The Seventh Art Stand, a national film and civil rights discussion series against Islamophobia. Reckless Spirits (2022) is a metaphysical, multi-lingual POC buddy comedy for a bleak new era, in anticipation of a feature-length project.

Vee is passionate about cultural space, the environment, and finding ways to covertly and overtly disrupt oppressive structures. They also regularly share observational human stories through their storytelling newsletter, RAMBLIN’ WITH VEE!, and are pursuing a Master’s in Tribal Resource and Environmental Stewardship under the Native American Studies Department at the University of Minnesota.

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Written by Vee Hua 華婷婷
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