It’s the first Saturday of the year without a football game and I’m not entirely sure what to do with myself. It has been a hectic week to say the least, and I could be using this time to write that essay that I have been putting off or doing some much-needed cleaning of my kitchen. Instead, I am spending the lovely but dreary day sitting in the same sofa crease for six hours, catching up on all the shows I have missed. (Is anyone else loving “Scream Queens?”)
Besides Kerry Washington perpetuating my obsession with Scandal, I have also come across an up-and-coming band on my Spotify Discover Weekly playlist. JR JR, formerly known as Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr., is a classic American indie-pop band that originated in Detroit and now consists of Daniel Zott and Joshua Epstein. The two met each other while playing in other Detroit music projects, and they began recording in Zott’s basement in Royal Oak. They recently released a self-titled album on Sept. 25 that deals with the classic theme of youth, shedding uncomfortable skin and being reborn as their true selves. It's a typical recipe for the quintessential “coming-of-age” soundtrack, yet Zott and Epstein manage to transform a seemingly simple sound into one of poignancy and nostalgia. In this third studio album, they strip down unnecessary bells and whistles to focus on their own combination of ideas, creating songs like “Gone,” which to be sung in a karaoke bar, and “Hypothetical,” which uses musical techniques I have never heard before.
“Caroline” tells a story of coming to terms with your own decisions through vibrating synthetic piano and lyrics, “Oh my Caroline / No one is going to live my life for me.” “In The Middle” is reminiscent of a Duran Duran disco dance track, complete with distorted voices and electric guitar riffs.
My personal favorite track, “Philip the Engineer,” feels like the last song played at a bar before closing for the night, using strange dystopian future metaphors to represent fading youth and broken relationships. “Time makes grownups sound like kids / You can’t stop the time / So kiss your kids goodbye,” the song fades, tugging on your heartstrings and forcing you to reflect on your own childhood.
“In My Mind (Summertime)” switches gears, sounding like an indie version of the Beach Boys that you would listen to while watching the waves lap up on the beach. The subdued “In my mind / You’re the summertime / So please don’t go away” are comforting words for someone not quite ready for winter yet. (Seriously, where did Fall go?)
These common ideas of finding love, finding yourself and leaving things behind while growing up is what makes JR JR universal, despite how un-hipster they make make you seem. I’ve recently become quite nostalgic for myself (is that a thing?) and have been doing a lot of thinking about choices I’ve made, choices I will make and where I’ve come from. So on this rainy day, tucked away in a dark, quiet apartment, JR JR produces indie pop that simultaneously makes me feel very cliché and very unique. There’s not much more that I could ask for.