Arriving one year to the month since their full-length debut, Football Money, Kiwi Jr.’s sophomore effort has cemented their own place in power-pop’s musical folklore.
Very few record labels establish themselves as a brand as strongly as Sub Pop. The Seattle outfit rose to prominence in the late 80s, and the Sub Pop logo soon became synonymous with bands who were frontiering a new era of indie music in the US.
It’s no surprise then, that Canada’s Kiwi Jr. caught the attention of the label; with a slacker-rock sound that harks back to the heyday of Pavement & The Vaselines, whilst maintaining a modern lyrical edge.
Cooler Returns’ first single, ‘Undecided Voters’, was released amidst the chaos of 2020’s US presidential debates. Frontman Jeremy Gaudet observes the lunacy of the campaign circus, focusing on the people who inhabit that ambiguous slice of the pie chart, or ‘democracy’s driftwood’, as Gaudet puts it.
Throughout the LP, this unperturbed and unpretentious nod to an understanding of heavier themes allows the album to remain breezy and – unlike many other musical products of 2020 – fun.
From the very opening of Cooler Returns, Kiwi Jr. set the precedent for the tone of the tracklist to follow. ‘Tyler’ begins with sprawling, jangled verses which give way for a sharp, melodic chorus to catch the listener like a trap door.
With such a small pool of acts from the slacker-rock world penetrating the mainstream, Kiwi Jr. are always going to be faced with comparisons to the likes of The Modern Lovers and Pavement. And although there are echoes of Pavement’s Stephen Malkmus throughout Kiwi Jr.’s work, the band have allowed a range of sonic inspirations to penetrate this collection of songs.
‘Maid Marian’s Toast’ pairs its post-chorus guitar solo with folky harmonica. And ‘Only Here For A Haircut’ incorporates slide guitar and a Honky-tonk piano riff that steps outside of their genre confines with confidence.
Lyrics throughout the album cut between the surreal and the mundane, with each short song passing by without any filler. This swift, no nonsense delivery means ‘Cooler Returns’ remains high-tempo and fluid throughout.
Alongside contemporaries of the genre, such as Parquet Courts, and more recently Disq, Kiwi Jr have added not only a footnote, but a chapter of their own in a genre that remains perpetually youthful and refreshing.
featured image: Warren Calbec