Album Of The Week: Kiwi Jr. – Chopper

Our pick of the week's new releases is the superb third album from Canadian indie pop quartet Kiwi Jr.

One of the last gigs I saw before everything stopped was Kiwi Jr. at Stoke Newington’s small-but-perfectly-formed Waiting Room. There was a sense that night that this was a special band and undeniably the last time they’d play anywhere this small.

Fast forward to 2021 and even with Covid putting the breaks on most bands’ momentum, Cooler Returns arrived to prove those instincts correct. That album refined the Canadian quartet’s charming indie rock, adding Dylan-gone-electric harmonica and organ to an even stronger set of songs. It also placed them at the vanguard of a new breed of Canadian indie pop, alongside the likes of Alvvays (from whom they “poached” guitarist Brian Murphy), Ducks Ltd. and Motorists.

Kiwi Jr. - "The Extra Sees The Film" (official lyric video)

Their return to these shores may have been delayed but when they finally do next month, the rooms will be bigger and more numerous, the addition of a second London date suggesting that even the band didn’t anticipate the growing demand.

What tickets remain for this tour will surely vanish with the release of Chopper. Produced by Wolf Parade’s Dan Boeckner, Kiwi Jr.’s third album continues their upwards trajectory, this time adding a synth sheen that makes everything feel a touch slicker. Jeremy Gaudet’s lyrics still feel like character studies written in cryptic crossword clues, but those obscure-yet-vivid details are increasingly beguiling. Like the devastated wannabe in ‘The Extra Sees The Film’ or minute observations like “the shape of your tiny fists” and the sound of “those European police sirens” on standout ‘The Sound Of Music’.

Kiwi Jr. - "The Sound Of Music"

The band have described the album as “Kiwi after dark”, a theme that cuts through from the album cover through to the general aura of nocturnal 80s classics like Michael Mann’s Thief. You can imagine each song playing out against an underexposed neon metropolis.

Since their debut Football Money, the band have been plagued by Pavement and Jonathan Richman comparisons, which feel less appropriate than ever here. Despite Gaudet’s penchant for wry observation, there’s a sincerity and energy that sets it apart from any concept of slacker rock or twee indie pop. ‘Unspeakable Things’ rattles through the door on a wonderful organ riff while the Bong Joon-ho referencing ‘Parasite II’ calls to mind The Strokes at their poppiest and most ambitious, while Gaudet wonders who’s drinking all his beer, shrinking his clothes and spending all his money (twist: it’s him).

Kiwi Jr. - "Unspeakable Things" (official video)

In interviews leading up to the album’s release, Kiwi Jr. have repeatedly said that their approach is song-by-song. If all four of them love it, then they move on to the next one and leave it up to the listener to piece it all together. The approach is a hugely successful one. There are no weak points on Chopper, just a series of highpoints, right up to the borderline epic closer ‘The Masked Singer’. This Chopper just keeps rising.

Chopper by Kiwi Jr. is available to buy and on all major streaming sites from 12 August.