Just Lions' new EP, Paper Cage, conjures a sense of alt-rock playfulness harking back to the early 2000s. In Cake-like fashion, frontman Chandler Strutz speaks more than sings on the wooing, surf-rock title track. His lethargic, crackly voice hangs over the song like a puff of smoke. Just Lion's fondness for swelling crescendos, dramatic breakdowns and the occasional blast of horns make this EP both fun and familiar. But there's balladry, too. "Be Mine" is the perfect example, a jangly love song that blooms into a tavern anthem of communal vocals, scaling guitars and crashing drums, but ends before spinning out of control. "Too Close," with its pulsing guitar riff and frequent string interludes, offers an interesting dualism, but that's about as experimental as the band gets. Instead, Just Lions are focused on crafting catchy, sharp, turn-of-the-millennium rock. The accessibility of its throwback to the recent past makes Paper Cage work.
SEE IT: Just Lions play Mississippi Studios, 3939 N Mississippi Ave., with New Move and Bombs Into You, on Wednesday, Oct. 2. 9 pm. $6 advance, $8 day of show. 21+.