Indie pop band Janice Prix weren’t exactly accepted by their local crowd at first. Deciding to create synth heavy sounds with clean vocals and big pop hooks didn’t exactly endear them to their neighbourhood and a scene full of metal oriented bands. If there’s something the Swedes have always been good at, though, it’s creating good pop hooks…and so Janice Prix continued on their quest undeterred. Their debut EP ‘Nobody Would Know’ says so much about their determination as their talent. Its five songs are layered in synths and punchy drum loops, yet at the same time, there’s a huge sound and just enough guitar to endear them to the kind of people who expect their pop to deliver a bit more than a quick sugar fuelled hit.
An instant stand-out, ‘Save Me’ has a very contemporary sound at the time of recording, almost as if Bastille and Twenty One Pilots decided to take on New Order at their most commercial. A quiet guitar is underscored by a moody piano at first and the vocals augment this stripped down mood with a solemn performance. Upon reaching the end of that first verse, the expected explosion of sound doesn’t actually occur – Janice Prix are keen to build on the melody slowly; first with tinkly bells and then with extra keys, before programmed beats, indeed, drop the listener square in the eye of a pop storm where a big sound and filtered vocals sound like The Killers meeting Twenty One Pilots, or even a more sedate Max & The Moon. Chosen as the lead single, ‘Waking’ is quite striking in the way it opens with an unaccompanied voice. The way it softly calls opens up a doorway of sound where muted guitars echo an old David Gilmour melody, before bigger sounds suggest we’re heading into the kind of pop you’d expect from Bastille and The Temper Trap. By the time the chorus kicks in, those early hints of brilliance truly come into their own as the band opts for a much bigger presence. With a dominance of bass drums and synthesized handclaps, never a million miles from Panic At The Disco, crossed with a little more of Bastille’s slightly retro sound, it has the kind of hook that feels as if it’s designed for more than just a fleeting moment in a world of disposable digital music. A brief instrumental break full of loud synth horns is perhaps a mistake, but it doesn’t create enough of a misstep to kill the mood and by the time the chorus re-appears, there’s enough of a re-affirmation that this is a really solid tune.
Going deeper into a mechanised sound, the echoes and coldness present during the opening bars of ‘Glitch’ resemble quieter material from Linkin Park, something that’s reinforced by a prominent piano sound. The way the atmosphere allows a moodier vocal to come forth, there’s something slightly emo-ish about Janice Prix’s pop and as the verse branches into bigger sounds, it’s almost like there’s a goth pop band waiting to burst out. The biggest entertainment comes from the way blankets of keys evoke string oriented sounds against a soaring chorus melody…and if there were any doubts about the quality of band’s pop (from their local surroundings or otherwise), this track is enough to set things straight. The title track goes deeper into a narrative – in this case, the lyric reflects a mother who has lost touch with her children – but there’s also just as much detail in the music as before. Here, you’ll find synths approximating string quartets juxtoposed with dance rhythms, intercut with atmospheric piano refrains, but above all, an assured vocal that seems only to self-aware of the size of the pop that it is fronting. The dancier elements occasionally make it feel more suited to a time and place, but it’s all very well constructed.
In closing, ‘Father’ scales things back for a fine piano ballad. A very emotive melody rings out from the start and it is number where the lyrics, once again, play a hugely important role. Within a world of sadness and reflection, the protagonist tells of sitting in a room awaiting a phone call, visiting a dying relative and subsequently of how he “can go to the moon and back, thinking of things we should have said and done” and how if he “doesn’t say it now, it’ll never be said.” It’s heart wrenching stuff, indeed; some listeners might never recover. As the number moves into the closing bars, the influences aren’t as much from twenty first century pop as from the moodier end of ‘Pop’ era U2, with a slightly grandiose edge that builds to a great climax. If it wasn’t clear before, this is a band that knows how to create atmosphere within their pop frameworks and, here, it would have the ability to floor the listener if approached in a fragile state of mind.
Commercial enough to fill the radio, yet with just enough of an indie-based twist to attract the kind of people looking for an alternative to various indie pop acts, Janice Prix really hit the mark with this release. There are a lot of times where influence comes through stronger than outright originality, but that doesn’t matter when the songs are this strong. Already slated as a glimpse of things to come, these five songs present finely crafted pop that’s recommended to anyone with an open mind and an open ear.