ALBUM REVIEW: Kiwi Jr. – Cooler Returns

IT SEEMS ages ago when, in London, I found out that Kiwi Jr. were playing in a club but their concert was sold out. It was one year ago, more or less.

Anecdotally this recounts of the rising status of this Canadian band, who had just released a quite punchy debut, Football Money. An instantly endearing single, remindful of jangle-diva Stella Donnelly (“Salary Man”), a dirty Pavement-esque garage anthem like “Football Money” and a handful of uptempo tunes had made the trick.

The intervening lockdown must have been a shock for most bands and artists, save a few who managed to compose and even release new music amidst the mess (e.g. Adrianne Lenker). Apparently Kiwi Jr. have been on the safe side of the barricade, in relatively peaceful Toronto, and so they are back with Cooler Returns, a new album more or less one year after their breakthrough. Not to mention they signed with Sub Pop in the meantime.

This new album probably has a more defined sound and a more balanced songwriting quality, even though it has no real stand-out song. All are more or less equally pleasant, so to speak, with some more or less well known garage-pop refrain (“Nashville Wedding”, “Waiting In Line”, “Highlights of 100”) or other stuff that does not sound entirely new, coming from them (“Undecided Voters”).

Surely the band hasn’t drifted far from where they started from but there are indeed things to be liked (the nice uplifting instrument interplay in “Dodger”, the singalong ruckus in “Tyler”, the harmonica and wah-wah riffs in “Maid Marian’s Toast”).

Definitely not a bad effort from one of the few bands that sounds like nothing happened during this year, which is refreshing.

Kiwi Jr.’s Football Money will be released by Sub Pop as a digital download and on CD, limited yellow and trad black vinyl on January 22nd; it’s available to pre-order now over at their Bandcamp page, or direct from Sub Pop.

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