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Kiwi Jr: Cooler Returns review – clever, easy-going jangle pop

Kitty Empire
·1-min read

Conditioned by its DIY wing, trad indie rock tends to look askance at musicianly filigree. But Toronto’s Kiwi Jr know their way around a rock’n’roll piano, some well-oiled harmonica, interlocking guitars and a host of other non-DIY flourishes. That’s what hauls this foursome clear of their solid but over-familiar templates: fey jangle pop, punky melodics, the Modern Lovers and Pavement.

There’s some seething organ, or bejewelled piano, on many of the songs on this 13-track album – calling to mind how the Hold Steady brought Springsteen’s wildly sentimental keys to post-hardcore. So although blithe tunes are at the core of this set of songs, and singer Jeremy Gaudet speaks of indie mecca Glasgow like he knows the city well on Undecided Voters, the accomplished successor to this band’s promising 2019 debut finds Kiwi Jr having their cake and eating it.

Songs such as Maid Marian’s Toast are both clever, easy-going and gilded with just the right amount of feedback and mouth organ. And Norma Jean’s Jacket can get away with snark (“shoot the damn video already”) within a far sadder and more generous ballad.