When Remi Wolf starts her new album Juno saying “you can go if you want to,” you better not. The self-proclaimed “funky soul pop” artist released her first studio album on October 15, and it is a wild ride from start to finish. Juno’s ridiculously in-your-face cover art matches the whole project—a listening experience so out-there that it finds cohesion in an eclectic mix of sounds on every single song.
For instance, “wyd” starts with lyrics on self doubt laid over a funky bassline before erupting into a defiant and bombastic chorus laden with synths and backing vocals. Distorted feedback crackles as Wolf self-censors with a cash register sound effect. “Guerilla” interjects verses with slide whistles, snaps, and video game samples, while the singer pops in and out of the background with stabbing vocal lines. The loudest moments of the song use frenetic guitars and the singer’s choppy notes to create the sensation of the warzone referenced in the title and lyrics. This part’s camera sound effects and loud cheers are par for the course on this record, where Wolf’s musical style and influences can vary from moment to moment. The abrupt shifts, abundant ideas, and snappy endings propel the listener through the record.
Wolf’s lyrics are open and honest. She sings mainly about relationships, but does so in original ways. On “Front Tooth,” she says “You’re the love I breathe, you’re the bed I sleep in, You’re a garden gnome.” These out-of-nowhere lines and references fill up the record, like in the second track, “Anthony Kiedis” dedicated to the Red Hot Chilli Peppers frontman of the same name. The songs all bend around Wolf’s vocal delivery and lyrics, and this same track hosts a notable moment on the record where a sharpening knife and all too real squelching sound accompany the line “put my head in the hole of a guillotine chop.”
“Grumpy Old Man” sees Wolf deliver one line in countless ways; she pronounces words differently, pitches her voice downwards with a vocoder, and corrupts it with interference. Her tracks spiral out of control as the production builds into an intricate chaos. On “Buttermilk,” pounding drums meld with Wolf’s voice, creating cohesion and generating momentum.
A low point on the record comes in the prolonged outro to “Quiet On Set,” where a child’s voice goes on a long tangent about a trip at the mall and losing their mom. The closest thing this album has to an interlude, this piece does not fit well into the song, and it interrupts the otherwise relentless flow of the record.
The last few songs on Juno reveal an intimate and softer side to Wolf, without undermining her uncompromising sound. “Sally” stands out as a tender and open track that follows a more conventional love song format with an alternating lo-fi and warmly drummed beat. “Buzz Me In” and the closer “Street You Live On” contain Wolf’s typically intricate production, but their slower pace and confessional lyrics about messy relationships grant a personal look into the artist’s headspace.
“Sexy Villain” stands out as one of the catchiest tracks on Juno, and it is remarkably laid back for a song about a fantasy of moving to Pasadena and becoming a serial killer. Even if Wolf’s lyrics were boring, this album would be worth a listen as a musical experience that constantly surprises and rewards the listener. Luckily, Remi Wolf demonstrates her songwriting skill all over the place; she is just as capable of provoking a laugh or tears with her lyrics. Juno is a voyage through the artist’s mind; songs are charmingly overwhelming as they provide revelations into Wolf’s emotions and thought process. To the listener, the artist may as well be discovering herself as it goes along. Not everyone will love this record, but it commands praise for how uncompromising it is. As a debut album, Juno makes a statement: Remi Wolf knows what she’s doing. After listening to Juno, one will definitely wonder what on earth is coming next.
Rating: I N D Y
Brendan Hegarty is a Reviews co-editor and a sophomore in the SFS studying Culture and Politics.