RECORDINGS : Quick Spins

Sunday, August 19, 2007


Junior Senior

If perpetually perky people bug you, Junior Senior will land you in an asylum. The delighted Danish duo -- which dropped American jaws with its cheerleading 2003 debut, "D-D-Don't Don't Stop the Beat" -- is so perky that if you ingest an entire CD, you almost certainly will commit a violent crime. Yet enjoyed in controlled doses (or in concert, particularly if you've slammed an adult beverage or five), these singing mega-wimps are, like, crazy-fun. We're talking B-52's-style euphoria.

This second disc isn't as irresistible as the first. But turn that frown upside down: Junior Senior still delivers a chirpy mix of disco, funk, hip-hop and pop candy. Ridiculousness like "We R the Handclaps" will have you bouncing in the car at the drive-through (where, undoubtedly, you'll order a Happy Meal). You'll also catch yourself chanting insipid choruses -- "Can I get-get-get to know-know-know-know you better-better, baby?" -- alternately pretending you're the giddy straight one (Junior, a tiny, talented multi-instrumentalist) and the gleefully gay one (Senior, a big, mustachioed pep-rallier).

It's like tossing the Jackson 5, Chic, Wham! and Richard Simmons into a blender and hitting the "puree" button. If that's the sexy smoothie you'd love to slosh around while clapping, prancing and squealing "Woooo!," Junior Senior is eager to slap your tush. Bonus: This CD was released two years ago overseas, so it's being packaged with a new EP, "Say Hello, Wave Goodbye." Non-bonus: Listeners will, indeed, wave it goodbye. It sounds hurried. Besides, for health reasons, nobody needs that much Junior Senior.

-- Michael Deeds

DOWNLOAD THESE: "We R the Handclaps," "Can I Get Get Get"


Lori McKenna

Lori McKenna might not be a household name, but two years ago households across the nation heard glamour gals Sara Evans and Faith Hill singing her songs on country radio.

McKenna's versions of those hits, songs that reach deeper and into darker recesses than most contemporary country music, first appeared on "Bittertown," a gritty indie CD rereleased by Warner Bros. in 2005.

This successor offers another batch of bracing originals cast in roots-rock settings and sung in the Massachusetts native's grainy alto. Human dignity and connection remain her primary concerns, especially those moments when personal circumstances and demons interfere.

In "Falter," a trenchant song about homelessness, McKenna reflects on how her own indifference might have contributed to a former high school classmate's falling through society's cracks. In "Leavin' This Life," she revisits the passing of her mother, who died when McKenna, now a 38-year-old mother of five, was 7.

"I don't know what her voice sounds like / I don't know what her skin feels like," goes the song's throbbing chorus. "I only know what it might feel like when a mother holds her daughter / And that mother knows she's leavin' this life."

McKenna revisits such painful experiences not because she's a masochist but because she refuses to believe, as some friends insist in "Witness to Your Life," that "No one reaches / No one transcends / They just learn to live with it." Unwilling to accept resignation as a way of being in the world, she instead pours herself into everyday struggles, her own and those of others, in hopes of redeeming them.

-- Bill Friskics-Warren

DOWNLOAD THESE: "Falter," "Witness to Your Life"

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