Anyone who has set foot in an academic space knows: Sometimes the brightest students are the biggest freaks. Jockstrap’s 2022 album I Love You Jennifer B was a top-of-class debut: a painstaking, high-drama pop collection with a clear command of classical songcraft and ornate glamour. Their new album, I<3UQTINVU> (“I Love You Cutie, I Envy You”), compiles reworkings of those songs that the duo’s Taylor Skye created to blow off steam, fist-pumping anthems that loosen the collar on the polished originals. If Jennifer B was closing night of the big production, then I<3UQTINVU> is the chaperone-free cast party: puckish, weird, and ultimately, pretty lit.
On Jennifer B, Jockstrap drew as much from chamber folk and UK rave culture as they did the classic pop canon. I<3UQTINVU> scrambles the formula further, zigzagging into grime, chiptune, and harder EDM. Skye recruits a few featured players, including standout South Florida artist Ian Starr on “Red Eye,” which reworks Jennifer B’s strummy curtain opener “Neon” into a brief and unhinged banger. Starr’s nightmarish snarl of “I make that boat rock” sets the tone for the big payoff—a gargled primal scream that rips the track open into a glorious conclusion of 808s and autotune.
Not forgotten in the excitement is Skye’s main collaborator, vocalist and composer Georgia Ellery. Jennifer B placed her warble and knotty writing center stage in its horny baroque circus. Even broken down for parts, Ellery’s vocals are still a guiding force, maintaining a lightness that balances <3UQTINVU>’s harsher edges. On songs like “Good Girl” and “I Feel,” Skye keeps key verses that preserve her songwriting, like an imagined lover’s quote from “Angst” on the latter: “You fucking love/You love to fuck/To fuck it up/Fucking listen to her sing!” And on “I Touch,” Skye leaves Ellery’s “Glasgow '' nearly intact, introducing a drum machine and looped vocals. It soars.
Not every cut here earns its place. “I Noticed You” sounds like Fred Again.. mimicry with its uber-smooth vocals and monotonous house cascade, missing Jockstrap’s signature skew. Despite a fun verse from vocalist Coby Sey, the inscrutable “All Roads Lead to London''—which includes new synths, dog barks, and Rubiks-cube restructuring—just makes you miss the swooning electro-catharsis of the original, “Concrete Over Water.”
Amid the band’s first-thought-best-though experimentation, a glimmer emerges. A bookending companion to I<3UQTINVU>’s high-octane opener “Sexy,” “Sexy 2” reworks “50/50” into a warm lullaby, and features the album’s only new material from Ellery. Over slide guitar, banjo, strings, and shakers, she sets another beguiling scene of lust. But there’s no wink here, and none of Jennifer B’s melodramatic acrobatics: The recording is among their most intimate and unvarnished. Somewhere in the glistening runoff of Jennifer B, Skye synthesised one of Jockstrap’s loveliest tracks yet. It’s a testament to the mess on the cutting room floor as the necessary conditions for producing the next great song.
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