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JUNODEF (SE) – “Heights”

Although JUNODEF is originally from Sweden, its members now live in London. It’s an interesting choice for the band to have made, because its music sounds deeply Nordic, and the UK is in a far more politically and socially precarious space than the Nordic countries are at the moment (even with Swedish legends The Radio Dept. continuing to churn out anti-fascist anthems at a constant rate). It’s probably safe to assume that JUNODEF, three of whose four members aren’t men, relocated to London for solely musical purposes.

Or maybe they relocated to make a tangible difference in the music world. JUNODEF has been praised as often for its music as for its work with Girls Rock London, which encourages women, non-binary, and trans people (particularly younger folks) to play music. It’s already difficult enough for people who aren’t cisgendered, white, straight men to make strides in popular music, and male-centrism is exaggerated in the UK, the US, and Canada in ways with which the Nordic countries seem better at dealing.

The question is, what makes JUNODEF an entity to which people would listen about these issues? One taste of “Heights,” the band’s newest single, offers a peek into why music fans might tune into what the band says. Musicians, particularly those who develop devout fanbases, are role models for their fans, especially their youngest ones, and with level-headed yet gut-punching songs like “Heights,” JUNODEF is certain to accumulate new fans rapidly and teach them how to look at the world for what it is.

From its very outset, “Heights” is incredibly alluring. Drum pads and a feather-light, melancholy, slowly illuminating sequence of guitar notes give way to thrumming bass and frontperson Karin Grönkvist’s Gothic, solemn singing. When the chorus arrives, additional layers of guitar chords and a bleak, ambient fog empower “Heights” with an overwhelming, simultaneous comfort and nausea that a warped, borderline industrial bridge capitalizes on with thick, roaring, bass synths. The path the bridge takes to return to the chorus—specifically, roughly no transition between sections—emphasizes the chorus’ primal power, which is already impossible to overlook.

As Grönkvist begs for someone who’s leaving to stay, she identifies her sheer abjection (“Let’s hope tomorrow never comes”), romance-inflected nightmares (“I keep dreaming of falling from great heights”), and utter hopelessness (“nights slow down/I can’t do this without you”). She manages to travel through many of the stages of grief with nuance and minimal melodrama; she’s a rational realist who can look at any situation from the outside. A whip-smart, analytical thinker, she might just be the perfect role model for young folks looking for that person in the media who actually represents them.

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