Joe Adragna, the North Shore-based mastermind behind one-man (with help from an extensive list of friends) band the Junior League, understands the value of doing more with less. Throughout The Junior League’s discography—and most recently with the September release Also Rans—Adragna has produced records of layered, jangly pop rock with an unmistakable band feel despite mostly recording alone. Adragna’s experience as the drummer for a Monkees cover band has shown him how classic power pop is constructed from the ground up, and he has taken those lessons into the Junior League’s impressive output.
However, while Adragna can ably mimic a full band by himself, doing more with less, Also Rans is at its best when he shows that less is more. Much of the album is jam-packed with sounds, but Adragna’s pop influences shine brightest when used with restraint. “On/Off” features an eerie sparse piano over a driving verse that explodes into a lush chorus enveloped with sugary vocal harmonies. “A Dagger and a Kiss,” whose country-fried guitars ride a groove that is less “rock” than “roll,” starts by giving ample space that is filled with more and more guitars and effected vocals as the song progresses, making the extensive studio treatment feel earned. Adragna is clearly a gifted musician and talented songwriter who is at his best when he allows his songs to ride without training wheels.