After releasing five EPs over the last five years, the bedroom pop duo joan finally felt ready to go all out with their debut album superglue, which dropped yesterday.
Having followed their career since 2018, I found myself wondering why it had taken so long for them to put out an LP, but now the pieces have come together. This whole project seems so carefully tailored that it adds up to something bigger than their previous work, something that acknowledges the nature of being a human being nowadays, and the timeline that Alan Benjamin Thomas and Steven Rutherfurd’s lives have followed. It also inevitably addresses the fact that they both became fathers around the same time, and how that has changed their perspective on everything they have ever been through.
Hinting at the main topic in superglue, the album kicks off with “life death & everything between,” explicitly letting us know what we will be singing about for the next 34 minutes. The track begins with the sound of a radio being tuned, something that is revisited halfway through on “coffee shop,” and on the interlude “hi.” It feels faintly like a lullaby, even including a short recording of a crying baby at the beginning, and applies the sometimes overused night-core ish high pitched vocals, but I will let it slide because it does add onto the whimsical energy of the track.
On that song, just like on “simple,” and “backseat driving,” the Arkansas boys wonder about the meaning of life in a nostalgic manner, while singing on top of some of the poppiest melodies and instrumentals they could have thought of, similar to the way Dayglow and Lauv sing about their anxiety and problems. joan’s sound has always been that of ’90s songs by N’SYNC or The Backstreet Boys, but reinvented and with more earnest lyrics at times, and so it figures that they’re still singing about life after death and the meaning of our existence on top of a Taylor-Swift-Lover-era type of track.
Now, something that really bothered me about this album is the song “coffee shop.” Not because it’s bad, but because it’s really good and it’s less than a minute long, and has only six lines. I’m sure there is some sort of symbolism behind it (again, the album does start with a radio being tuned), but I feel like I need that song now, and I need it to be longer so I have enough time to enjoy it before moving on.
I also almost went on a whole rant about “hi,” that also just left me slightly angry because it’s a 16-second track. I figured it could be a wink at their 2021 EP under the same name, but haven’t been able to find a real connection. It actually works as an intro for another song though, transitioning perfectly into “feeling like dancing,” one of my favorite songs of this new era, and one that is a lot more similar to their original releases. The ’90s and early 2000s undertones come in even stronger, bringing back their characteristic flow and glow.
However, probably the most solid and polished song is “falling in love.” This might be a ridiculous take, but the instrumental even reminded me of Tyler, The Creator’s style on Flower Boy (“See You Again,” “Boredom”). Obviously my comparison falls apart considering that the voices are a lot softer and more mellow and completely far away from what Tyler does, but the beat, the chord progression, and the glossy and dreamy idioms turn the song into a nice tribute for what I’m assuming are some R&B influences.
In a music industry that revolves around people’s personal lives, the drama and whatever makes it to DeuxMoi’s Instagram account, artists that have a calm, established life, with long-term significant others, and maybe even kids, are rare. joan’s decision of speaking on fatherhood and how children change your life is a brave move, though I do believe that the band made a deliberate choice to make these songs also work as love songs (“monsters” can be seen as a sweet metaphor for romantic love if you don’t know much about the band). But the title track just lets it all out, and answers a song from the opening song, “surely it all has some sort of meaning, right?”.
On superglue, they reply to themselves: “Then I look in your eyes, questions seem to subside. Maybe life and death should always stay a mystery, but I’m starting to see, it’s you.” The reason why they’re here and why everything has been worth it is their daughters. They will inevitably grow up together, go through all the things Alan and Steven already went through, and from now on (or at least until they grow into teenagers and potentially feel embarrassed) that is what joan will be all about.
superglue is out now.