Band press packages run the gamut, from absurdist to informative. If the band and/or their publicist is doing a good job, these musical bundles tend towards the latter, giving the prospective listener background on the band, upcoming show dates, and a hint of what the band might sound like. Press photos, on the other hand, are all too often exceedingly cheesy — firghtful images that make you cringe and wonder in horror at why someone would include that picture if they actually wanted you to listen to the record.
Junior Private Detective's glossy 8-by-10 band photo thus proved a welcome surprise. One look at the croquet mallets held aloft and their signature Carmen San Diego-like logo emblazoned on the bottom and I had a hunch that I'd enjoy Square, their debut LP. Yes, I know, don't judge a book by its cover and all that… but come on, they're holding croquet mallets! What can I say — I am easily seduced by lawn-based game implements.
Portland-based JPD makes pretty, slightly dark math pop. "Math pop," you ask? Indeed. JPD excels at muddling genres, artfully drawing from musical styles that on first glance appear contrary and irreconcilable. Intricate guitars set to off-kilter tempos ring out in warm bell tones, shining over layers of thick rhythm guitars, delicate keyboards, and shimmery drums. Emilie Strange's vocals haunt each track, alternating between soaring choruses and verses that verge on spoken word. Imagine the spookiness of Rasputina set to the erratic, rocking rhythms of Don Caballero with keyboards and piano liberally interspersed throughout.
A perfect example of JPD's math pop can be heard in "To-Do List." This track repeatedly spirals almost out of control, gaining pace like a tricycle rushing headlong down a hill only to escape a dramatic crash at the penultimate moment. "Your Horoscope," by contrast, sounds far more spacious and orchestral. Here JPD foregrounds the piano against dark, meaty guitars to create a swirling rock symphony. The expansive sound captured on Square makes me wonder what JPD's live show might be like. Can they possible sound as lush in person? Here's hoping Seattle has a chance to solve this mystery soon.