Kiwi Jr. – ‘Cooler Returns’ album review

Melodic art pop-rockers Kiwi Jr. have now signed to Sub Pop and are set to release their latest album ‘Cooler Returns’ on 22 January. The album is full of storytelling and characters that will live long in the memory – taking in everything from true stories of local arson and insurance fraud to the dark underworld and the political apathy that has given rise to fascists across the world.

The Guided by Voices-esque ‘Tyler’ opens the record in smart style with a first line any novelist would be proud of – ‘There’s a crowd gathering outside our apartment’ – and a defiant message of ‘I know I can make it on my own’. Recent single ‘Undecided Voters’ swiftly follows with its jaunty melodies and words about those who have lost faith in the political sytsem before ‘Maid Marian’s Toast’ (the one about the insurance fraud) blends sweet, soulful sounds with a harmonica solo and a declaration that ‘You’ve got something you always wanted’. ‘Only Here for a Haircut’ references Tomb Raider, boneshakers and newspaper headlines before talking about undercover cops, while the title track recalls a bout of illness during last year’s Super Bowl Sunday with a tinge of regret – albeit amidst hooks and solos to die for.

‘Omaha’ has chanted vocals and eye-opening observations about whether Woodstock actually happened before settling on the decision ‘if the cover-ups were than the crime, then let them find out on their own’. ‘Domino’ is altogether more fuzzy with back-and-forth vocals and classic pop melodies backing up words about moving forward – ‘I’m learning to accept things the hard way’ – before the baseball reference-filled and Malkmus-like ‘Dodger’ talks about Jack the Ripper and how he ‘killed six people. Max’. The record closes with the slackerpop anthem’Waiting in Line’: ‘I stay home, you go to work’.

‘Cooler Returns’ is a record you’ll want to return to again and again.

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