Iâ€™ve had a hot-and-cold relationship with Mystery Jets. More than half of their songs warrant repeat listens, but theyâ€™ve also got some ponderous, wandering clunkers. Theyâ€™re more adventurous (and often less raucous) than standard Britpoppunk, but adventurous can sometimes lead to experimentation, which can sometimes fail. At least it did on their first album. But â€œ21â€ is the rare example of a sophomore album that far exceeds its predecessor.
â€œ21â€ pops, bursts, and explodes. It alternates bright affection with moody introspection, but delivers every song with boundless enthusiasm. â€œYoung Love,â€ with Laura Marling on vocals, is scary catchy. Itâ€™s got a hooky, bouncy bassline, wonderful refrain, and the kind of summer-sun lyrics that sound familiar at first listen. â€œHalf in Love With Elizabethâ€ is part Arctic Monkeys, part Beatles, mixing scrappy grime with beautiful harmonies and crystal clear pop. You have to hear it to understand. The wintry â€œFlakesâ€ represents the downtempo MJs: A wailing, mournful chorus over guitars that in the hands of another band might be shoegazey, but here, theyâ€™re just perfect. Lyrically, the band has grown as wellâ€”speaking maturely about love and rejection in choruses (â€œIf I only knew your name, Iâ€™d go from door to doorâ€) and verses alike (â€œTurn away if you must/But how can you put your trust/In a man who always sleeps in his clothesâ€).
21 is produced by electronica star D.J. Erol Alkan, but he keeps his remix/dance influence to a minimum here, getting the band a bigger sound (and wisely emphasizing the extraordinary bass guitar work) without sacrificing their organic, indie sound.
No, not every track is a pristine winner, but enough of them are to make this album one of the top releases Iâ€™ve hear this year.