Back in May I was lucky enough to get a preview of Cinematographic as The Junior Varsity took to a corner of a neglected gymnasium in a sleepy college town and played a string of tracks from their latest release. The record showcases a great deal of all around growth for the group. Much has transpired in the years between 2005’s Wide Eyed and the present, they have seemingly taken it all in and let it all back out with Cinematographic. A dozen well-crafted tunes comprise the disc, ranging from spacey/eerie tones to more straightforward hard-hitting rock. Thus securely placing The Junior Varsity as one of the top alternative bands in the indie scene today.
As the record begins a subdued and indistinct guitar plays; following a few bars it subsequently rings out until all of the instruments come in. This serves to set the tone for “I Went Blind” a song that is both sonically corpulent and precisely paced. The first single from the record, “The SKY!” produces vivid imagery that is painted with each line delivered by vocalist, Asa Dawson. Reflection appears to be the basis behind “Wunderdrug” as the lyrics evoke a tale of youthful escapades, from building igloos to climbing trees in suburban Illinois. I can safely say that “St. Louis” is my favorite song, I really enjoy the line “well how could I grow tired of being useless/when the more I work, the more I lose it/this could be the life inside of you.” Unfortunately “The Greatest” falls short of being just that. However it’s more than made up for, as the the social conscience of modern living is taken to task on the compelling and textured track “The Importance of Being Important.” Flowing impeccably into the instrumental “Memory Made Easy” which features a beautiful acoustic guitar backed by a charming string arrangement. On the song “Try to Define” I feel that the band virtually channeled Jimmy Eat World, as it is so skillfully arranged and layered.
Overall Cinematographic is a relative change for the group, but the title track is a genuine departure. Highlighting Nick Dodson on saxophone, the song remains low key and allows the lyrical content to provide the largest impact. Showcasing shades of a familiar sound “Lungs” is a welcome addition, but becomes slightly unsettling to the ears as the chorus hits. The album comes to a close with “Under the Radar” delivering powerful lines such as it’s all wrong again and now it all comes back to you/you’ve got to find a new meaning, a higher view.” Marvelously charged and brilliantly vibrant, Cinematographic plays out like a sonic film, scene by scene and song by song. With prevalent themes of the afterlife, struggles with power and those that hold it, not to mention the unnecessary items that take control of our lives. In this summer heat, The Junior Varsity has not only given us all something to listen to but to think about as well.
1. I Went Blind
2. The SKY!
4. St. Louis
5. The Greatest
6. The Importance of Being Important
7. Memory Made Easy
8. Try to Define
12. Under the Radar