Efrain Arias-Medina Jr.
After two EPs, an album full of remixes and a viral TikTok hit, Remi Wolf’s debut album, “Juno,” was released Oct. 15. The record, named after Wolf’s dog, is a smashing collection of 13 tracks, leaving the album just under 40 minutes long. It’s fun, punchy, gritty and a mind-bending declaration of Wolf’s talent that is years ahead of the current pop game.
Starting off the record with “Liquor Store,” Wolf dives into her “fear of abandonment and dependency on people and alcohol,” she said in a verified annotation from Genius. With zappy guitar leads, prominent, steady drums and a groovy bass line, the track kicks off the eclectic sound of “Juno.” Right off the bat, the spunky instrumentals take it home, as she sings, “Liquor store, ’cause I want morе, carnivore / Eating my heart out, liquor store / ‘Causе I always want more walking into the liquor store.”
On “Anthony Kiedis,” a track taking the name of the Red Hot Chili Peppers lead singer, Wolf continues the record on a high note — with high-pitched vocal stacks right at the beginning of the track. Coming off of a shouty, clap-along chorus, Wolf belts into visually demanding lyrics on the second and third verse. Singing “my trapeze swinging sideways, sideways / ‘Cause I get what I want and it cost me a lot / Put my head in the hole of a guillotine chop,” Wolf talks about how she tends to bend over backward for people, making “donuts” with her body.
The third track, “wyd,” is one of the most memorable tracks on the record, a perfect example of the organized chaos Wolf produces. A sensational bass line carries the track along with crisp guitar accompaniment, as Wolf places dramatic gasps throughout the track. The layers of vocal harmonies fill the listeners’ ears toward the end of the song, when Wolf breaks down parallel to a crunchy guitar solo, repeating, “I don’t need your validation / Cause I got me and medication.” The build-up within the song pays off incredibly well, and the sounds produced are futuristic collections of excitement that you’d expect to hear lightyears away.
Though it doesn’t start off seeming to be as punchy as the last track, “Guerilla” builds into a buzzy track, stacked with uniquely placed vocal harmonies, snappy percussion and witty lyrics. The track even switches up in the bridge, fading to a slightly different beat which has a paradise feel. The break doesn’t last long before the original course of the track comes smashing back in as Wolf chants “guerilla, guerilla” until the song cuts out.
Wolf has a unique talent for creating music that truly feels alive. On the fifth track, “Quiet On Set,” Wolf demands attention from the listener. Within seconds of the track, it feels like Wolf is grabbing the listener by the ears and steering them into her world as she sings quirky lines about postmating Chuck-E-Cheese and Sugarfish sushi. The song feels like a slap in the face — in the best way possible — from the attention-grabbing start to the build-up paying off like a roller coaster, taking the listener through every up and down with excitement of what’s next. Even the baby voice outro, something that seems out of place without context, flows well and keeps the giggly energy of the song going until the last second.
Calming down from the explosion of music that “Quiet On Set” was, fun, lighthearted guitars take the reins on “Volkiano.” Wolf’s voice mesmerizingly glides over a melodic track laced with synth zaps and electronic-like drums. The track lays somewhat low throughout most of it, but once the bridge hits, the track levitates with an orchestral feel as strings play. The track then feels out of this world, like a blast-off into space. As the bass comes back into the song and carries it to the end, the song builds and is a monumental and almost unreal moment on the record.
On “Front Tooth,” Wolf sings about her desire for a “lovey,” “true mother feel,” but admits something doesn’t feel “like it’s supposed to.” The song erupts with sounds of glass breaking in the background, followed by the echoes of speeding motorcycles as Wolf confesses she feels like she’s in a Conor McGregor fight — “kicking out my front tooth.” The instrumentals are a bit more laid back than they are on tracks like “wyd” or “Quiet On Set” but are appropriately toned down so that Wolf’s powerful and controlled belts can take the spotlight. In true Wolf fashion, the song is carried out with an electrifying guitar solo.
On one of the most playful songs on the record, “Grumpy Old Man,” Wolf confesses how defensive she is. Bongos and a repetitive bass line start off the track, with Wolf even referencing the instrumental makeup by singing, “I’m so defensive I got bongos / Thumping in my chest and something tells me they don’t beat for me.” After repeating how Wolf always has eggshells around her, the song breaks out into an old-timey swing, taking the song to another level. After the breakdown, Wolf goes back into the chorus but with a fun twang to it, enunciating each lyric with a drawn-out country accent.
Banging drums pick the listener right back up from the previous track on “Buttermilk.” At the start, Wolf paints the picture of a back and forth relationship, singing, “I’m too attached to the sound of you / Pulling me out of the gutter / Then throwing me into the lava / Dunking me into the water.” This track is another one of the visually encapsulating songs on the album. The snappy, island-like instrumentals illustrate the paradise Wolf may sometimes feel with a person.
“It’s kind of, like, this beautiful jazz song,” Wolf said in an interview with Anthony Fantano. “Like I kind of wrote a jazzy-type song, but then, it’s like, the beats f—– underneath.”
The layers of the track are incredibly composed. It’s an overload of sound, but it’s never too much. It dances with the ears of the listener, nearing the edge of too much sound but never crossing over. The heavy banging drums — which are incredibly reminiscent of the sound a dodgeball makes when smacked — keep the direction of the song from turning completely into something from a beach level of a Nintendo game.
“Sally” brings a reminiscent taste of Wolf’s first EP, “You’re A Dog!,” to the record. Wolf’s vocals float into the track, accompanied by an alluring bass line in the chorus. The chorus builds satisfyingly — the bass line almost competing with Wolf for who stands out the most. The crunchy, almost 8-bit drums that carry out in the verses make for an interesting groove. The song comes to the ultimate peak at the end of the chorus as Wolf sings, “God, she’s a Mona / Hot like Arizona / Drinking mad Corona / Waiting up another night.”
The groove of “Sally” continues on in “Sexy Villain.” A funky bass carries the track as loud, fuzzy guitars come in and out, while Wolf makes it clear that she’s a “sexy villain.” Wolf’s vocals alone would be enough to carry this track into bliss, but the unique vocal stacks and background harmonies take it to another level. While it’s not as in-your-face as other tracks on the record, “Sexy Villain” is an invitation into the cool-girl lifestyle of Wolf. She’s not just telling the listener by dropping lines like “Not the hero, I’m the west coast Bob Deniro,” and “I’m cool with the hiding / Cool if the cops aren’t invited,” but showing the listener with the laid back yet sensational instrumentals as well.
On the last two tracks of the record, Wolf takes a calmer approach than the beginning of the record with “Buzz Me In” and “Street You Live On.” There’s truly never a dull moment with Wolf, but the tracks could have benefitted from different placement on the album, as they’re the slowest tracks on the record placed back to back, tacked on to the end. “Street You Live On” gives off an emotional feel when listening, and it gives “Juno” a slow send off. But does that work for a record with such high energy and with such remarkably spunky and upbeat tracks?
It’s uncertain. The ears almost want a dramatic, clashing ending to “Juno.” But Wolf’s choice to close out the record with “Street You Live On” leaves room for reflection of the minutes just spent listening to “Juno” while still entertaining. The track is like a slow boat ride, headed home after a captivatingly rowdy 40 minute long trip into Wolf’s mind.
On “Juno,” Wolf makes it clear she’s a force to be reckoned with. Despite some of the vulnerable lyrics Wolf confesses throughout the album, there’s something about the composition of “Juno” that’s daring the listener to ask for more.