I've been hooked on the music of The Juliets since the first time I saw them live in 2009. Their self titled debut album was one of my Top Five albums of last year and they are back with the follow-up, "Perfect Season". So, did they avoid the dreaded sophomore slump that derails so many bands? Absolutely, and then some.
"Perfect Season" continues The Juliets' mastery of pop music with a twist of baroque and classical. Jeremy Freer continues his uncanny ability to compose top notch songs with all the melodies and hooks your ears desire. It's a gift he puts to good use across all twelve of the tracks on the new album. The duo of Kaylan Mitchell on cello and Sarah Myers on violin still serve as the heart of The Juliets unique sound. Their strings do not serve as filler, they are at the forefront of each song, as important to the band's music as typical pop-rock instruments like guitar, bass and drums. Speaking of bass and drums, Ashton Hopkins and Jaclyn Phillips round out the lineup this time, making their debut on record with the band.
Produced by the band along with Dave Feeny, "Perfect Season" definitely has a more polished sound than their debut. Also instantly noticeable is the prominent role electric guitar plays on a number of songs. Piano is usually Freer's instrument of choice, and it is utilized often here, but tracks like the driving "Heart In Heart", "Why Should I?", and first single "Loon" are propelled by Freer on electric guitar, as opposed to the acoustic that was used on their debut. Regardless of what his instrument of choice is on any song, Freer has an instantly catchy, accessible melody and chorus ready made for each one. "Only You" even brings some electronic beats and effects into the mix, but these additions do not detract from the formula or distinct sound of The Juliets. They're only occasional enhancements that leave the door open for them to experiment more in the future, without losing what makes their music so special.
There are still plenty of piano based compositions here too, with the best being the energetic force that is "Fashion", quickly becoming a live staple for the band. "G.W.N.L." features Sarah Myers' vocal debut on record in this duet with Freer and "You Found Me Out" closes the album with a bouncy, light pop piece. In ballsy fashion, the longest track here is "The Lost Memory", a lovely instrumental waltz placed in the middle of the album, giving Freer room to show off his skills on the piano while Mitchell and Myers do their thing on the strings.
As good as the uptempo material is, The Juliets also deliver their two finest ballads to this point. "A Perfect Season" opens with electric guitar while somber strings play and the song's beauty just grows from there. Freer's falsetto soars on the chorus of this declaration of love and devotion. Placed near the end of the album is the stunner "Ad-Lib". Backed by just piano and strings, Freer delivers a vulnerable vocal performance with a melody that is heart achingly gorgeous. He'll be hard pressed to top himself in the ballad department after this one, but it will be a pleasure to hear him try.
Although I think I favor their debut slightly more, there is not a bad track on "Perfect Season" and it is a perfect follow-up. The Juliets retained everything I loved about their first album while adding in some new musical elements. Jeremy Freer cements his reputation as one of the finest composers working in Michigan and The Juliets are one of, if not the, finest pop bands currently in the state. Much like their debut, "Perfect Season" is an album worthy of breaking them on a national level.
"Perfect Season" was self-released by The Juliets on November 5, 2011.