It’s always been some sort of tradition, more like a rule actually: Röyksopp never does an album that sounds like anything they have done before. Early in 2009, when news about two new up-coming Röyksopp albums started to spread through the Internet, I was a little skeptical, not because I doubted the duo could deliver, but because it sounded so not them. Not so long after that, the duo stated that this album was going to be the counterpart to Junior (released prior, early in 2009), and while Junior was described as having a spring feel, Senior would be completely instrumental, having an autumn mood.
Senior was delayed for almost a year (originally stated for a late-2009 release), and I started to wonder what could possibly be taking so long? But when it was finally released, I realized what was going on. You see, I have the theory that something so different in terms of music genres can’t be released within 6 months of difference, at least coming from the same artist, and I reckon now that it was the right choice.
But what is Senior about? Being a completely instrumental album means that there won’t be vocals taking the lead role, something that has been done brilliantly with Junior (2009) and The Understanding (2006). The weight of the album then falls on feelings and emotions created by the ambient and atmosphere evoked through the songs, which is something we discuss later on.
For someone not used to paced and relaxed music like downtempo and ambient, and specially if the only previous experience with Röyksopp was through Junior, this might come as a not so easy transition from the electronic / synthpop sound, but you must know that all the ingredients that makes a Röyksopp album so good are all here.
Now, speaking about the songs, The Drug was selected as the single from this album, and it’s a happy downtempo driven song that reminds me in some ways of Boys from The Understanding, although I find it a little misleading when you compare it with most of the other songs. Also there is Tricky Two, that as you might have guessed, it’s a reworked version of Tricky Tricky from Junior, which is not just the original song stripped off of Karin Dreijer Andersson’s voice, it is actually an expanded version with a thicker set of arrays, and before you know, you won’t even remember there was another version…
But Senior is so much more than new versions of old songs, it is more about discovering a new set of emotions through places your mind creates, and songs like The Fear and Coming Home are to blame for that.
I actually believe there are different personalities within this album, if you listen from start to finish you will at first feel like you are still waking up from a Junior-induced hangover (thanks to Tricky Two and the Déjà vu it represents), and ironically right after that you have The Alcoholic, but instead of having a thick, dizzy experience as the name suggests, it turns out to be a warm, nature inspired journey that carries on through Senior Living.
The Drug ends up being the middle point if we stick to this perspective. Forsaken Cowboy is the door to the fascinating second part that this album has, and it is my very own personal opinion that we reach the climax with The Fear. After that, things start to slowly get drone and confusing, almost like if someone suddenly plugged the cord and we are left with just a distant memory of what was happening before being completely shut down.
After it all finishes, the only option left is to go through it all over again, in the hopes of finding new meanings. There is a catch though, you should never idealize it, because as I said at I said at the beginning, Röyksopp never does something twice (ten years later and I’m still waiting for Melody A.M. 2).