Frank Sinatra meets electronica? Yes, on “So This Is Goodbye,” the 2006 album by the Junior Boys, the Canadian synthpop duo of Jeremy Greenspan and Matthew Didemus.
“When No One Cares,” written by Sammy Cahn and Jimmy Van Heusen, was the opening track of Sinatra’s 1959 album, “No One Cares,” a somber, bittersweet and exquisite work. The Junior Boys went their own way with the song, retaining the fragile mood of the original, but using a series of echoing synthesized sounds under the melody sung beautifully by Greenspan. (You can find online a version of Greenspan singing a version accompanied by only an acoustic piano.) In interviews, he said “So This is Goodbye” was inspired by Sinatra’s “No One Cares” album as well as his “Point of No Return,” issued in ’61.
Thus, “So This Is Goodbye” was a mature work characterized by romantic ballads that showcased Greenspan’s voice and the duo’s creative, unobtrusive use of electronica. The lovely “Count Souvenirs” well-represented the entire album with its lightly applied synth orchestral tones and percussive pulse; all was designed to support Greenspan’s voice as he sang here of scattered memories that suggest a life unfulfilled: “All the papers and the fumes/They’re all of you/They stay alive/Inside the things we knew.”
Didemus and Greenspan delighted in placing darting, percussive tones under a dreamy melody, as in the title track and “Caught in a Wave,” in which they utilized a long, textured series of warm, rounded beats to usher in a vocal that seemed more an interlude in an instrumental track than its centerpiece. “Like a Child” opened with a popcorn synth and synthetic fun percussion. But then misty piano chords entered leisurely as did the melody sung by Greenspan. The appealing hybrid spoke to ingenuity as well as beauty.
At times, the beats and synth sounds threatened to overwhelm the vocals, as in “Double Shadow” and “The Equalizer,” which opened the album and positioned it as well-done but conventional synthpop. (“The Eqaulizer” profited from a charming vocal by Greenspan.) But as it progressed, “So This Is Goodbye” evolved into a distinctive, charming and surprisingly emotional statement.
“So This Is Goodbye” was a hit with fans and critics. The album was nominated for the 2007 Polaris Music Prize, which acknowledges Canada’s best recorded work. (Patrick Watson’s “Close to Paradise” received the prize over not only the Junior Boys, but Arcade Fire and Feist as well.) Since then, the Junior Boys have issued three studio albums and an EP, including “Big Black Coat,” released in February. The duo remains romantically inclined and electronically adventurous in their form of pop music, which continues to please.