The Junior Varsity – Cinematographic
Release Date: June 19, 2007
Record Label: Victory Records
The Junior Varsity faces one of the more daunting tasks in any bands career, which is the sophomore album. An album that can either make a band or break a band (Finch, I’m looking at you). For the Springfield, Illinois quintet only improve on what they started with 2005’s Wide Eyed. Combined with relentless touring and a dedicated fan base, Wide Eyed had some moderate success. Looking to make a bigger splash this time around with Cinematographic, their second album with Victory Records (Okay, okay, I know this is TJV's third album technically, but work with me here), the boys have added more of a guitar-driven sound to blend with the technical sound Wide Eyed possessed, thus making Cinematographic more well-rounded than its predecessor.
“I Went Blind” kicks off the album with a somber intro and first verse, only to break into a soaring chorus where vocalist Asa Dawson belts it out. “The SKY!” features twisting guitar riffs, which pace the song. Kenny Vasoli joins in vocally on “Wunderdrug,” a light, steady song that displays the fine drumming skills of Chris Birch as the band rocks out in the final minute. “St. Louis” is an upbeat pop ditty showing off the diversity in the band’s sound, while “The Greatest” is a faster, darker song that pummels down on the listener.
The band’s instrumentation is on full display with “The Importance Of Being Important” and “Memory Made Easy.” “Importance” is a sentimental song with fine lyrics as Nick Dodson’s work on the keys is superb. The band’s shining moment occurs on “Memory Made Easy,” which is one the better musical interludes I’ve heard this year. A gorgeous combination of the piano, cello, and guitar, the song’s beauty captures and captivates your ears.
The sharp sounding “Try To Define” follows with one of the catchiest chorus’ on the album. Each instrument is played on spot here, and during the bridge you’ll notice the melody of an old childhood rhyme. The title track is a waltzy jam, with Dodson highlighting the song with his use of the saxophone. “Lungs” is definitely the hardest hitting song on the album, and album closer “Under The Radar” concludes with a menacing undertone and guitars that drive throughout the track.
Before even popping Cinematographic into my CD player, I didn’t have high expectations. I did not enjoy Wide Eyed particularly, because while they did a few cool technical things, I found that album to be a complete drag, as the majority of songs bored me. With Cinematographic, The Junior Varsity have improved on almost all aspects of their sound. The guitars sound bigger, the vocals have improved, and the lyrics are more focused. And while the album is far from perfect (the second half drags a bit, the vocals are still nothing special, and lasting power is an issue), I am pretty impressed with what The Junior Varsity did on their second album. While fans of the first album may take a while to enjoy this effort (as well as hating me for disliking Wide Eyed), Cinematographic has the potential to draw in new fans that did not catch on with the last album. Sophomore slump be damned, The Junior Varsity are here to stay.