Jamaica

Indie
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Editorial Review

JAMAICA

Synth-pop that aspires to be guitar-rock, Jamaica's "No Problem" is both clever and a little cheesy. The French duo's debut album boasts a disco-inspired wallop and richly detailed electronic timbres, thanks to its techno-oriented producers: Justice's Xavier de Rosnay and Daft Punk soundman Peter Franco. But the set opens with the crashing chords of "Cross the Fader," and most of the songs include arena-rock flourishes.

The formula strongly recalls Phoenix, which highlights one of Jamaica's problems. The group combines the traits of recent Parisian pop-rock imports without adding much of its own. "I Think I Like U 2" has a galloping bass line and durable vocal hook, but the song simply blends Phoenix's swagger with the Teenagers' snarky misogyny: "She was never pretty / She was only young," snipes singer-guitarist Antoine Hilaire.

The album relies on playful sonic contrasts. "Short and Entertaining" crosscuts between stuttering lounge-jazz strum and squalling hard-rock riffs. The bouncy "When Do You Wanna Start Working" hops from bass-driven verses to a falsetto-flecked refrain. "Jericho" amusingly repurposes the Velvet Underground's "Sweet Jane" to deliver sappy lyrics. But if Jamaica's arrangements often upstage the songs, that's only partially because they are so sharp.

- Mark Jenkins, April 2011