Possibly tortured by the EDM currently invading pop music, a number of dancefloor-minded legacy acts have chosen 2016 as their year to reunite. Like Underworld and Massive Attack, Ontario’s the Junior Boys are looking to electrify a new generation of revelers with their tightly honed electronic exploits. “The fact that we haven’t put out an album in a long time has been liberating,” said founding member Jeremy Greenspan. “With [Big Black Coat], a lot of people will be hearing us for the first time. There’s a freedom that comes from that.”

During the duo’s five-year hiatus, Greenspan utilized his time away from engineer Matt Didemus to collaborate with Caribou and up-and-comer Jessy Lanza. A few new tricks can definitely be heard across the 11-track offering. Likely sourced from Caribou’s Dan Snaith, there is a new, dark techno pulse that invades the pair’s iconic electro-pop during “C’mon Baby” and latter album cut “And It’s Forever.” And as garage and UK bass fine new international life, “M & P” and their cover of Bobby Caldwell’s seductive 1978 single “What You Won’t Do for Love” continue to be as relevant now as they would have been during a 1992 underground. Unfortunately, as infectious as its sparkling low-end blips and falsetto might be, the flip of Caldwell’s hits follows a similar technique used by teenage bedroom producers from across the globe.

Taking full advantage of their unknown status amongst gen-Z and millennial consumers, Didemus and Greenspan fall too frequently into the comfortable habits of their earlier catalog. Throughout the album, Didemus seems reluctant to truly embrace some of these new techniques. While album opener “You Say That” does push toward a beautifully disorienting pinnacle of electro-chase, the track closes with lyrical and instrumental monotony and a random studio cough (an Easter egg for those who actually make it to the track’s final note?). “Baby Give Up on It” has all the elements of an adventurous disco-funk production, but again, the minor elements are never given the opportunity to flourish beneath the top-level melodies. Not until the closing title cut do Didemus and Greenspan allow the track to roam within this new artistic freedom. On “Big Black Coat,” Greenspan’s well-worn falsetto coalesces with the single’s psychedelic effects, resulting in a momentary sense of escapism. A highly sought after quality in today’s dance music culture.

For better and worse, Big Black Coat borrows many qualities of the trusted outerwear; it’s dependable and proper for a number of occasions but it is certainly not going to standout among a crowd of colorfully clad personalities. There comes a time for many creatives when a community of artists have overtaken their mentors. That time seems to have arrived for Didemus and Greenspan. The product continues to be strong, it just isn’t as striking as the current work of artists like Hot Chip, Dan Deacon and Matthew Dear or even Junior Boys precursors Vince Clarke and Martin Gore; the latter duo embracing a new set of sounds and textures as VCMG. The path hasn’t come to a sudden dead-end for the Junior Boys, a new route or crew is just in order.

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