Written, recorded, and produced in a small studio apartment during her first year of living alone, June Jones’ highly anticipated third record, Pop Music for Normal Women, is an inventive, energetic, intense and amusing journey. The album marks a move away from the slower, more contemplative art pop of Jones’s first two albums, Diana (2019) and Leafcutter (2021), to a more upbeat and playful sound, while retaining the candid emotionality that Jones is known for.
Themes of identity, loneliness, connection, illness, and transformation recur throughout Jones’s semi-confessional songwriting on this album. The gravity of these themes – inspired by the singer’s experience as a disabled trans woman – are offset by moments of wry humour, bouncing synths, and anthemic choruses. At various moments on the album, Jones describes some of the things that she is (a gamer, a goblin), things that she has been (an extrovert, a sensitive child), and things that she might become (a hoodie girl, a Kawasaki motorcycle). Jones’ penchant for shapeshifting comes through not only in her imaginative lyrics, but also in the wide variety of sounds and styles found throughout the record, as well as her music career as whole.
With a title that is only semi tongue-in-cheek, Pop Music for Normal Women is indeed a collection of pop songs, though it is clear that June Jones appreciates the elasticity of this ill-defined and ever-evolving term. While previous releases have seen her channel art pop inspirations like Kate Bush and Björk, the new album is also reminiscent of nouveau pop singers such as Charli XCX and Caroline Polachek, as well as the bittersweet pop punk of the first album Jones ever loved, Avril Lavigne’s iconic debut Let Go.
On Pop Music, Jones manages to channel all of these distinct inspirations into her own unique palette of contrasting but complementary colours. In just shy of 30 minutes, the eight songs on Pop Music carry the listener from a playful and bittersweet first act, into an angsty and frenetic middle, and then a final act that explodes with intensity, followed shortly by a hopeful denouement. This album is also Jones’s first to include feature artists, with each collaboration complementing the song perfectly, whether it’s the yearning duet and second single, ‘If Only’ with Katie Dey, the grunge pop ballad ‘Extrovert’ featuring Alice Skye, or the cyber pop punk finale ‘Motorcycle’ featuring co-production from Geryon.
Mixed and mastered by Doug Wright and Becki Whitton respectively, with album art by Nadeemy Betros and music videos by Geoffrey O’Connor and Daniel R Marks, this is an album that both sounds and looks more crisp, colourful, and pop than anything June Jones has done before. Her aspirational drive to keep transforming and improving on her past work and selves is epitomised by the closing chorus, “Every day I wake up and wish I was a Kawasaki motorcycle / Every day I wake up and wish I was a lime green machine.”
On Pop Music for Normal Women, June Jones reminds us that we are all forever in transition, at once heartbroken and hopeful, holding contrasting realities at all times, and that’s kind of… normal.
Release: September 23rd, 2022, Emotion Punk Records