Remi Wolf – ‘Juno’ review: funk-pop at its brightest and boldest

Deeply reflective and in-your-face all at once, the Californian artist's debut album is an unashamedly proud celebration of recovery

No one has been more impatient to share ‘Juno’ with the world than its maker, Remi Wolf. The burgeoning funk pop star has stressed to NME that she is “fucking ready” after a tumultuous summer in 2020 that saw her enter rehab for alcohol addiction. That experience helped breed ‘Juno’, a whip-smart debut that encapsulates those unsteadier days and the subsequent road to recovery.

It’s no doubt been hard, then, for the 25-year-old to have kept this all bottled up – she has a compulsion to write. Wolf released her debut EP ‘You’re a Dog!’ in 2019 and it’s follow-up, ‘I’m Allergic to Dogs!’, the following year, the latter record spawning her breakthrough song ‘Photo ID’. A reworked record, ‘We Love Dogs!’, featuring remixes by Beck, Nile Rodgers and more, arrived this May.

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That prolific energy has made for maximalist pop music that’s stuffed with moreish hooks, gloopy grooves and cartoonish ad libs. While the album pulls sonically from Wolf’s previous EPs and her love for Beck’s welding of hip-hop, R&B and funk on 1999’s ‘Midnite Vultures’, ‘Juno’ hears her dig deeper lyrically – from mania and burnout to breakups.

‘Quiet On Set’ is a catchy rap dramatisation of the singer’s experiences with ADHD and  overworking. At one turn she sings, “I been fucked in the head” and “Work be killin’ me dead”. The next, she’s daydreaming about an “orgy at Five Guys with five guys”. An airy breakbeat and P-Funk synths soundtrack hilarious musings about said orgy (“That’s ten guys and holy christ / I’ve never seen more nuts in my life”). Pitch-shifted narration enters, with Wolf going on a bizarre tangent reimagining herself as a baby. This frivolity shines even when contrasted with ruminations on mental health.

No better are such dichotomies presented than on ‘wyd’, a buoyant number lifted by snappy acoustics and effervescent harmonies. Wolf reflects on the trials of industry chokeholds: “All these little bitches telling me what to do” are gorging on “escargot, good blow, and cordon bleu”. Elsewhere, Wolf explores sexual fantasy on album highlight ‘Sexy Villain’ and identity on glee-club banger ‘Anthony Kiedis’. The latter hears her playfully doubt an image she’s been carving of herself: “I’m doing on-and-off pilates / Like a middle-aged soccer mommy.”

Vulnerability and heartbreak knot ‘Buzz Me In’ and ‘Street You Live On’, while ‘Sally’ is steeped in minor tones, making it a welcome respite from the album’s eye-poppingly bright colour palette. These shadowier numbers, where Wolf emotes in a smoky timbre, are the record’s most striking moments. Ultimately, what these songs leave is a feeling that, for all the album’s brilliant shine, experimenting with darker styles might not go amiss for what’s next.

Details

Remi Wolf Juno album

  • Release date: October 15
  • Record label: EMI Records/Island Records 

 

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