Junior Private Detective is "indie rock" in the purest sense, if, of course, you believe in "indie rock" in the first place. No, it's likely not a conspiracy of music critics, but if "indie rock" has a sound, it's this. Taking their cue from the Sundays, the Breeders, Stereolab, Cocteau Twins, Rainer Maria and other antecedents in the genre, there is an abundance of drifting melodies, melancholy vocals and youthful disenchantment on this release from Junior Private Detective. A spawn of the current Portland music micro-culture, Erase should propel them to be one of the future favorites to come from the Pacific Northwest I-5 megalopolis.
Junior Private Detective (JPD from here on in) can easily be ascribed to the "math rock" subgenre of indie rock, which makes as much sense as trying to say that Angel is in the "vampire who solves crime" subgenre of sci-fi TV, i.e., vastly unnecessary. What JPD presents us with are aggressive melodies that keep their songs in your head that is part echoing shoegazer progeny, part early 1990's Pixies-centric rock followers, part initial-wave emo: a veritable buffet of the last 15 years of indie rock. "Crtl-Z" sets the tone, with belligerent crashes of Bo Fickel's guitars with Emilie Strange's vocals weaving their way through the debris. While this song starts Erase with reckless abandon, they follow with "Aftermath" (how fitting), a surprisingly sweet song that is infectious like a cheerful summer afternoon (well, at least the desire to run around in a field during such a day). Songs like "This Means War", "Sometimes" and "Goathead" show the aggressive side of the band and comes out as a female-fronted version of Lou Barlow's early Sebadoh work. "Goathead" is especially strong, with Emilie's vocals drifting over the chorus with ethereal beauty.
The strongest song on Erase has to be "Look Out for Me," where Emilie's vocals and Bo's guitars are at their most confident, belted out with no fear of making a misstep and they should have no fear. "Look Out for Me" is a band defining song that clearly shows the strengths of the band and its inspirations but also creates their own sound. There are song interesting musical experiments, such as "Start with Everything" that begins like a Casey Dienel piano ballad but then goes all Mon Frere on your arse as your approach the chorus. This dichotomy keeps Erase interesting and shows the musical maturity that JPD must have. If there's anything you're left with after listening to Erase its that (a) Emilie can make me eat out of her hand; (b) once JPD has the resources to really exploit the studio, their sound will become much more focused; (c) I have no doubt they'll get that studio time, and soon.
Erase doesn't mess around: it throws song after song at you that thrusts guitars rocking minor chords and Emilie's haunting vocals with no apologies. Junior Private Detective has an eery way of sounding like Metric's long-lost, less dance-prone sibling. Erase was shockingly self-released by the band, but I can't imagine that JPD will stay in the "self-release posse" soon if they don't want to be. They keep that "indie rock" beacon burning bright, whatever that beacon might actually be these days.