Acerbic yet winsome Scottish indiepoppers The Just Joans return with the dazzlingly maudlin The Private Memoirs and Confessions of the Just Joans, a deeply personal collection of songs that hazily recall the past and contemplate the futility of the future.
A titular twist on the classic gothic horror novel The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner by compatriot James Hogg, the new album is the follow-up to 2017’s You Might Be Smiling Now… and contains the kind of melodies and mockery that led Uncut to class the band as the point at which “Stephin Merritt lies down with The Vaselines.”
At the forefront remain the mischievous lyrics and heartfelt vocals of siblings David and Katie Pope, aided and abetted by Chris Elkin on lead guitar, Fraser Ford on bass guitar and Jason Sweeney on drums. Yet it is the recruitment of multi-instrumentalist Arion Xenos and guest appearance of Butcher Boy’s Alison Eales to arrange strings that have helped elevate the band’s music to new heights.
Their progression is most noticeable on lead single “Dear Diary, I Died Again today”, a painfully beautiful admission of everyday anxiety and “When Nietzsche Calls”, the triumphant cry of a spurned lover revelling in the misery of their ex to a backdrop of trumpets and violins. The juxtaposition of the fragility shown in these tracks with the menace of “Wee Guys (Bobby’s Got A Punctured Lung)” – an observation and understanding of the casual violence that once cast a shadow over the band’s hometown – highlights The Just Joans’ ability to seamlessly flip between sensitivity and danger, and sums up why Highway Queens described them as the “perfect Glasgow kiss.”
The Private Memoirs and Confessions of the Just Joans is a veritable smorgasbord of misery, longing and unrequited love; stories of small town resentments, half-forgotten school friends, failing relationships and awkward workplace conversations. As David explains: “It’s a collection torn from the pages of the diary I haven’t kept over the past 25 years. There are songs about places and people I vaguely remember, feelings I think that I once may have felt and the onset of middle-aged ennui.”
Despite entering new territory with the addition of brass and strings, they have nevertheless maintained the DIY ethos that made them darlings of the underground indie-pop scene, with each song on the album recorded and produced by the band in various gloomy bedrooms around Glasgow.
The Just Joans are David Pope, Katie Pope, Chris Elkin, Fraser Ford, Arion Xenos and Jason Sweeney.
All songs written, recorded and produced by The Just Joans.
The strings on Dear Diary, I Died Again Today, When Nietzsche Calls and The One I Loathe The Least were arranged by Alison Eales.
Dear Diary, I Died Again Today features Rosamund Noll (violin) Aoife Magee (viola), Sonia Cromarty (cello) and Kirsty Matheson (double bass).
When Nietzsche Calls features Tessa Ewart (violin), Aoife Magee (viola) and Eilidh Reid (cello).
The One I Loathe The Least Tessa Ewart (violin), Aoife Magee (viola), Eilidh Reid (cello) and Adam Peter Mills (trumpet).
Mastered by Scott Craggs at Old Colony.
Artwork painted by Katie Pope, and designed by Ben Neasmith.