So far, 2020 has been a real head scrambler of a year so anything that is an uncomplicated source of joy is most welcome. "Juniper" by Juniper (Shelley) (lp on FABCOM!/CD on Confidential Recordings), therefore, showed up at just the right time; a dozen accomplished, wholesome and super-catchy songs about teenage matters such as the merits (or not!) of boys and dating, in general (Juniper is 15 so that's entirely appropriate) that'll have your foot tappin' and your heart swellin'. The songs cover a range of styles from dreamy soda shop pop ("Girls Just Want a Boy To Rest Their Head Upon") through glam stompers ("Kids On The Corner", "Everybody's Got A Crush on Chad") to punkin' power pop ("Punk Rock Boy"). There's even a nod to Springsteen on the almost absurdly singalong-worthy "Best Kept Secret". The arrangements are great with lots of surprising little touches. For example, I sure didn't expect the wah-wah on "How Long's She Gonna Stay In That Room", still less the electric sitar at the end of closing track "I Don't Wanna Dream About You". Throughout, Juniper's vocals are high in the mix, with good reason; her clear but unshowy voice is immensely likable. "Juniper" boasts a host of top contributors (Ira Kaplan! April March! Beans Geddes! Francis Macdonald! Kim Shattuck! (RIP) and more) but I suspect I'd enjoy it even if the songs were largely unadorned. That's the power of succinct, well-written songs steeped in the good stuff from the past 50+ years of pop music.
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