Before sitting down to write a review of Jonquil’s new EP “One Hundred Suns”, I surfed Google to find some background on the band. Genre labels are apparently more fluid that I had thought as numerous sites reference Jonquil as part of the “math rock” scene but I hear none of the start/stop rhythms that I had (previously) associated with the genre. To my ears, the band’s new 8-track EP is closer in spirit to bands like The Annuals, Beach House and Vampire Weekend than Don Caballero and Jawbox. The band has described their music as “Paul Simon’s take on The Smiths” which seems to reinforce my point.
"One Hundred Suns" is Jonquil’s first domestic release (which is out on NYC-based Dovecote Records) and it follows two import-only releases. The new EP is currently available on iTunes and a vinyl release will follow early next year.
Jonquil captures the intricate sound of orchestral indie-pop bands like The Annuals and some members of the Elephant 6 collective but Hugo Manuel’s warm falsetto vocals helps Jonquil achieve some measure of differentiation. Another point of differentiation is that Jonquil doesn’t aim for the shambolic, lo-fi state of exuberance that some of their domestic contemporaries seem to thrive in. The overall disc bubbles with a mellow energy and uses some creative drumming and world-beat rhythms to reach beyond its folk-pop core.
The disc starts off strong with the fuzzed-out electro-pop of “Fighting Smiles” and the first single, “Get Up”, emphasizes poly-rhythmic drumming intertwined with some off-kilter guitar riffs. Beruit-style horns/brass is later added to the mix on the songs “Pillow Quest” and “I Know I Don't Know”. While this is the first studio recordings for seven of the disc’s eight songs, the band’s comfort with the material shows as many of these songs have been a regular part of the band’s live set. The last track, “Lions”, is a hold-over from the band’s prior LP.
Jonquil is already booked for SXSW next year and will probably end up “breaking out” next year. Below is a live video for "Fighting Smiles" so give a listen and see what you think.