“Greatest Hits” is a sublime model of Jockstrap’s future-retroism. It feels opulent but easy to slip into, like a beaded Halston unearthed at a roadside thrift store. It may be draped in cinema strings, but the song is far from stuffy. Ellery and Skye are playing dress-up, nodding to Old Hollywood glamour and discotheque pomp. Their manner of digesting these references makes “Greatest Hits” feel fresh; it winks at the ’70s by way of the ’90s, and it mashes up biblical imagery with 20th-century pop stars and a certain queen of Versailles. The song title scans as wry self-commentary, while Jockstrap’s detailed production adds a contemporary edge and a flash of humor (especially with an incessant chirp that sounds like “baby daddy”). After releasing a pair of somewhat exhausting remix EPs and being diagnosed as “ironic” by a former teacher, Ellery and Skye now prove that they are fully capable of writing lustrous pop music: Even the abstract expressionist can paint photoreal portraits if the mood strikes.
“Glasgow” is actually Jennifer B’s greatest hit. It’s a thumping road ballad driven by acoustic thrums and Ellery’s violin, which arches like a comet. Sweet and rapturous, it is primed for a singalong—the track that could land them a slot at Glastonbury. Even if they are hacking a trail to the festival tents, Ellery and Skye remain freaky. Jennifer B’s best tracks thrust open-hearted melodies to the fringes of madness. “Concrete Over Water,” the album’s high-drama centerpiece, morphs from bedroom confessional to souped-up circus theme. Eerie vocal stabs pierce the song’s perimeter, giving the whole thing a whiff of satanic ritual. On “Debra,” Skye lays down a colossal Bollywood riff, technicolor streamers that sound like they’re shooting from a parade float. With its wavering, distorted mix and scrapbook construction, “Debra” shares DNA with Jai Paul’s glorious “Str8 Outta Mumbai.” The song also contains Ellery’s most concise and poignant lyric to date: “Grief is just love with nowhere to go.”
The album is teeming with sharp turns and fakeouts, but instead of abandoning them as on earlier recordings, Jockstrap loop around to complete each theme. The title track kicks off with clinical key jabs and bizarre spoken interludes (one line, “Shifting about in her goddamn crochet pants staring at God knows what,” is seemingly uttered by a robotic Hank Hill). But the duo build on this creaky foundation, layering processed vocals and a synthesized horn melody. By the song’s end, the landscape looks different, but we can trace the path that led there. On Jennifer B, plot twists play out like a delicious art school scandal. Just when you think these orchestra enfant terribles will stick to their notation books, Jockstrap scurry to the bridge and chuck every page into the Thames.
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