2015 saw Detroit favorites Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. shorten their name to just JR JR, then follow that with their third full length. Titled after their new band name, JR JR saw Josh Epstein and Daniel Zott continue to combine their strengths of composing challenging yet accessible pop music. It was this gift that first made me take notice of each when they led their own local bands before combining forces and I'm always thrilled to see deserving local artists achieve the level of national exposure these two have with this project.
JR JR hits you right out of the gate with "As Time Goes By", the chorus section is prime material for fist pumping and shouting along. That's followed by the duo's most successful song to date, the whistling, sweet pop of "Gone" which gave the band their first hit on Billboard's Alternative Songs chart. Epstein handles the lead on "Caroline", a song with a tailor made sing-along chorus, as proven by their show at the Royal Oak Music Theatre late in the year. "In The Middle" continues the impressive run of songs that opens the album, this one has a massive 80's vibe and as is often the case with JR JR's music, an undeniably catchy chorus.
In fact that is one of the greatest strengths of the album. There are just ear worms here for days. "Electrical Energy", "For My Brother", they just go on and on. "Break My Fall" is another highlight but my personal favorite is "Hypothetical", a mix of pop with electronics and a smooth R&B vibe. And that chorus, this song screams to be a single. It's also nice to have the fantastic "James Dean" included here, a one-off the band released as a digital single in 2014. Also worth noting, the version included here is just slightly different from the original single version. It's very subtle but there are some extra, added production touches that only a music geek like me would have noticed. This straight forward ballad is one of my favorite things JR JR have done and it's placed perfectly on the album as a bit of a break from the dancier, electronic pop material.
2013's The Speed Of Things placed at #5 in my Top Albums of that year. It's a repeat for the former Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. as JR JR comes in at #5 for 2015.
Favorite tracks: "Hypothetical", "James Dean", "Break My Fall", "Caroline"
JR JR was released September 25th, 2015 on Warner Bros. Records.