Röyksopp, the Norwegian duo Torbjørn Brundtland and Svein Berge, just keeps getting better. The 2001 debut Melody AM was a simultaneously moody and poppy ambient affair. Tracks like “Poor Leno” and “Remind Me” suggested the pop possibilities within the context of ambient, while tracks like “Sparks” and “So Easy,” the latter of which I first discovered on the chillout compilation A Night in with Boy George (great disc, though the title now sounds like more of a punchline), suggested the Röyksopp sound was a 21st-century extension of Brian Eno soundtracks for the club set. Melody AM was a revelation at the time, for anyone who was listening.
The follow-up, 2005’s The Understanding, was an altogether different affair, somehow caught between wanting to be two things at once, ambient and synthpop. It straddled two visions of Röyksopp but, being Röyksopp, it was still good. Pushing toward a pop sound was mildly evident on Melody AM but it was fully obvious by the time of The Understanding, which is a grab bag of sonic treats, including the synthpoppy “Only this Moment,” the soulful “49 Percent” and probably one of my favourite tracks of all time, the grooving, Moog-driven “Someone Like You.” Brundtland and Berge even started commissioning some quality, well-crafted remixes to stir up the dancefloor and get the attention of DJs who understood what they were trying to do with sound.
Fast-forward to 2009. It’s been a long four-year wait, but Röyksopp has delivered the goods yet again in the form of new disc Junior — essentially Röyksopp on pop steroids. It’s wonderful. Opening track and first single “Happy Up Here” is a transcendent, playful track about, well, being happy; it begins with a sample of laughter. Who wouldn’t like that? It packs such an amazing punch in its 2:44-length, you won’t want it to end. Always collaborative, Röyksopp has called in fellow Scandinavians like pop comeback queen Robyn for “The Girl and the Robot,” indie rocker Lykke Li on “Miss It So Much,” Karin Dreijer of The Knife and longtime vocals collaborator Anneli Drecker. The vocal variety gives Junior a distinct sense of change from one track to the next; consistent yet never dull.
The forthcoming second single, “The Girl and the Robot” pulls some serious disco punch while “Röyksopp Forever” takes the idea of strings in pop music to an entirely new standard. More than anything, Junior sounds alive.
Röyksopp fans have more to look forward to with the release of Senior later this year, which is expected to be a platform for the duo’s more ambient side. Alive, catchy and completely indulgent, Junior will be regarded as one of 2009’s best releases.
“Poor Leno” from Melody AM
“Remind Me” (Someone Else’s Radio Remix) from Remind Me EP
“Someone Like You” from The Understanding
“The Girl and the Robot” from Junior
“Alpha Male” from Röyksopp’s Night Out
“Happy Up Here” from Junior
“Beautiful Day without You” from The Understanding
“Miss It So Much” from Junior.