by Andrew Garrison
Seattle’s synthy-new-wavy four piece, Jupe Jupe’s third effort, Crooked Kisses is exactly as synthy and new-wavy as you would expect. This ten track effort employs multiple instances of downright cool layering of sounds and catchy lyrics to create a sound that comes off as a modern, darker homage to something straight out of the 80’s (I mean that as a good thing, I swear). The general moodiness of the album, while still having some very distinct and well done electro-pop elements really gives off a very Tears for Fears type of vibe to Crooked Kisses (Once again, I swear I am not being mean).
“Pieces of You” has powerful yet rather melancholy vocals, a heavy synth beat and steady guitar lines to produce a rather haunting result. “Never Ask Why” has some creeping crescendo effect to the chorus, with most of the heavy lifting done here again with a synthesizer. One thing we do get in “Never Ask Why” which was not provided in the previous track is high pitched little tinges that add a subtle little lift to the track and a very cool instrumental layering just past the middle point and provides over 30 or so seconds of just a plain awesome sound. “Love to Watch You Fall” might have the best guitar bits on the whole album and is fast paced enough, while still having some levity from cascading synths, and the seemingly mocking lyrics. “Whispers Kills” has a much darker vibe to it, but doesn’t come across as too overwhelming; due mostly to a rather steady tempo and occasional pitch change. “All of the Things We Made” is a tad on the lighter side, especially when considering most of the other songs on the album and all around seems more optimistic. Using casual and steady guitar parts and the occasional crashing of cymbals, we get a much more hopeful feel. On nearly the opposite end of the spectrum, “Autumn October” is very droning, rather grey and all around drab. So much so that I assume it was done so in a very calculated manner, which would pair well with the track’s title and lyrics. “Vicariously” is probably my favorite song on this album. Not only is it an outstanding vocab word, but I think the lyrics and the changes in vocal tones and overall vibe, created by a rather masterful layering of instruments make it the best culmination of this darker, introspective, synth-pop sound that Jupe Jupe is striving for throughout the album. “Darkness” is not as moody of a song as the title may suggest. Rather, it is more downright funky in a futuristic type way. In fact, it comes across more so adventurous sounding than anything else. “Hollow” is a rather unassuming track, with more or less the same of the layers that we have seen throughout the album. Our last track “New Stars in the Sky” is where we finally get the namesake of the album, is a breathy, seductive, near James Bond-y song that I really really enjoyed and honestly wished that we had this effect reproduced throughout album more.
While Crooked Kisses is a good album, with a rather unique skew and new age take on new wave music, there really wasn’t anything outstanding for me. I was listening to the album while reading and it took me a while to realize I had heard the entirety of the work a few times through. Nothing, for me anyway, really came out and grabbed me. And with the exception of “Vicariously” it would be really hard for me to pick out one track from another. Maybe that isn’t such a bad thing. I mean, I didn’t hate any of the songs. Maybe there is something to be said and admired about having a similar and constant sound throughout an album. While some of the hooks were catchy, they never really seemed to get over the hump to be “stuck in your head catchy”. All in all, while I enjoyed listening to this album, to me, it just seemed to be really good background music, and maybe that’s okay.