Javelin - Hi Beams

It might benefit from some hooks to offset the at times cluttered sound.

Label: Luaka Bop

Rating: 5

Brooklyn-based duo, Javelin - that’s Tom Van Buskirk and his cousin George Langford - are two multi-genre experimentalist producers who love messing with sound. On their second album, ‘Hi Beams’ they attempt to continue onward in a more coherent fashion, but succeed in only sporadically delivering on the promise that their production skills suggest.

Unlike the pair’s debut, ‘No Mas’, ‘Hi Beams’ was recorded in a proper studio, giving Javelin wider scope to indulge in an expansive sonic palette. In terms of construction, it’s an impressively dense and layered album that merges numerous disparate influences, be it the closely atmospheric R&B dynamics of ‘Normal’, or the frenzied, jittery day-glo burst of ‘Friending’. Despite this, the balance is oddly askew: it’s a record which aims to sound futuristic, yet sounds rather old fashioned in its cut-and-paste magpie-like approach. ‘Judgement’ is a good example of its muddled dynamics; beginning as a lovely piece of light and airy tropicalia, it’s then bludgeoned by an intermittently crashing guitar riff.

It might benefit from some hooks to offset the at times cluttered sound. When Javelin let the vocal melodies shine, they’re more often than not lovely and engaging, as best exemplified on the warm, woozy pop lilt of album highlight, ‘City Pals’. By far the best moments here are when Javelin let their sound develop a bit more organically rather than becoming mechanistic. ‘City Pals” joyous ELO-like melodic pop not only sounds infinitely more relaxed, it also possesses the record’s best heart-swelling chorus, as Van Buskirk sings ‘Put a little backdrop in your life.’ Final track ‘The Stars’ continues in an encouragingly similar way, this time some Beach Boys-like harmonies combine over a dreamy hypnotic rhythm to great effect.

Javelin’s sense of ambition is certainly commendable, and despite its shortcomings, ‘Hi Beams’ still provides some examples of dizzyingly odd pop.