For the past decade New Orleans based songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Joe Adragna has been a very busy man. He began his career under The Junior League moniker releasing the albums Catchy in 2006, Smile Shoot Smile in 2009, Fall Back in 2010 and 2013’s You Should Be Happy. Adragna also moonlights as a member of the band The Minus 5, the pop collective headed by Scott McCaughey and has worked with such famous collaborators as REM’s Peter Buck, and Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy amongst others. Adragna has also lent his talents as a drummer for Boz Boorer and the Bozmen and also for New Orleans' psych pop group Bipolaroid.
So with a background such as Adragna has had, it seems only right that he release a compilation album under The Junior League name. That is precisely what he has done on his latest full length, aptly titled This is the Sound of the Junior League, fourteen songs taken from Adragna’s ten-year and well tenured catalog. The compilation showcases Adragna’s love of classic pop rock and post rock Americana. Though Adragna mostly recorded his records alone, there are a few famous guest stars that pop up on some of the tracks, among them Scott McCaughey, Peter Buck, Boz Boorer, Susan Cowsill, Peter Search and Deni Bonet.
The album opens with the ‘60s sounding pop rock classic crispness of “I Don’t Believe in Love.” Harkening back to sounds of the Byrds and early Kinks, the song is as beautifully constructed as it is rocking. The tone quickly shifts on the alt country twang of “You’re Gonna Die Alone,” which later sees a slowed down counterpart for the sad but beautiful “What if I Am?” The gears shift pretty quickly again on the straightforward pop rock and hand clapping jam session that is “Would You Believe?” complete with jangly guitar riffs, Beach Boys harmonies and love lamenting lyrics.
One begins to see the arc of Adragna’s work, especially on later tracks such as “Sun Dress” and “Samantha Smile,” which even though they still contain hints of the earlier alt country twang featured on his mid-period pieces, these two songs with their poppy splashes of electronic organ and acoustic guitar riffs that are held back just before the brink of rocking too hard seem to be exactly the place where Adragna finds his balance, and sounds most comfortable and at home.
My case for this rests in the diaspora of mixed musical emotions contained in the final four tracks. “Fall Back” sounds like late ‘90s Top 40 radio and bleeds into the sweetly painful and oversaturated alt country “Keep it Home,” which half way through breaks down to a mess of genres before returning to its original alt country roots. “Depot Park” becomes much of the same mess throughout the songs entirety going from picked acoustic to experimental noise rock in a matter of a few chords. The album closes with the orchestrated ballad “Charming.”
With this compilation, This is the Sound of the Junior League, Joe Adragna has put together a nice retrospective of his career to date. There is a bit of yin and bit of yang and my guess is that some fans will find a nice balance in the tracks selected and others will pick and choose the period of The Junior League’s music with which they identify with the most. Either way, for fans of The Junior League, This is the Sound of the Junior League will be a win-win situation.
We are dedicated to informing the public about the different types of independent music that is available for your listening pleasure as well as giving the artist a professional critique from a seasoned music geek. We critique a wide variety of niche genres like experimental, IDM, electronic, ambient, shoegaze and much more.
Are you one of our faithful visitors who enjoys our website? Like us on Facebook