Justice lace their unassailable house tenor with synthwave and the biggest guests they’ve ever had for the grandiose, catchy Hyperdrama.

Release date: April 26, 2024 | Ed Banger Records/Because Music | Facebook | Instagram | Stream/Purchase

In 2016, Justice dropped their third album, Woman. It was good, but not immediately captivating like their previous two albums, † (or Cross or Justice depending on where you look) and Audio, Video, Disco; the latter of which is an all-timer album for me. It took a full year of relistens to really grasp onto the melodic genius the French duo achieved and now it’s my second favorite Justice album. After all, they were one of my favorite bands ever – my own Daft Punk to hold up on a pedestal as the pinnacle of electronic/house music as many did that other French duo (who were also amazing at what they did). They deserved the chances.

I bring all of this up because I find myself in a similar predicament with their new LP, Hyperdrama. It’s good, no doubt – polished to a mirror ball sheen and catchy – but I find myself missing the hook that their other work had that causes me to slightly obsess over the album for weeks. I have no problem returning to it for another listen, but I’m not motivated to loop it several times in a day like I still am Audio, Video, Disco or Woman.

And why not? The bones of Justice are enthusiastically present here, with a twist. Where Audio, Video, Disco incorporated electrorock into their French house station and Woman dialed up the disco sense, Hyperdrama sinks into the dark streets of futurist synthwave, but on its own terms. This album is far from some throwback circlejerk with the same synth leads and tones you’ve heard literally a million times. Rather, Justice saw fit to repurpose some of those modalities without losing the danceable house beats or the flowery funk edge they’ve been smart to retain over the years. Single “One Night/All Night” is a great example of Justice hitting on all those points. The backbeat is undeniably house, the bass is robust funk 101, and then there’s Kevin Parker’s (Tame Impala) voice layered on top with some neat reverb and warm, snappy synths to complement it all.

“Generator”, another single, is more hard-bodied and heavy Justice, bringing back the intensity of songs like “Heavy Metal” or “Genesis” while still being totally different. The song’s wildly textured with a lot going on and I can imagine it becoming a staple in DJ sets the world over for getting the crowd going or maintaining the energy with its smoothness and sense of movement. “Incognito” plays with similar textures, but with lighter execution. It feels like a song to drive to – still locomotive at heart, but there’s a chilly, funky soul that permeates it, making it a good mid-album jam to orient yourself.

To be honest, I do have a small issue with the star power on Hyperdrama. While their older work certainly had guest vocalists who had a tendency to really elevate the music, they were, to me, unknown performers at the time. There was a sort of mystique and allure of hearing someone’s voice you didn’t recognize but could immediately latch onto and sing every word as if they were your own. Morgan Phalen (Diamond Nights) was perfect for that and I’m glad Justice collabed with him for quite a few songs on their older LPs as they’re some of my favorites. Or what about Romuald Lauverjon and Ali Love who also put in the work on other songs and turned good into great? I don’t have anything against Tame Impala, Miguel, or Thundercat; they’re all wonderful performers with a very defined lane, but I miss the more understatedness of their features for sure. To that end, my favorite feature here is RIMON, who I didn’t know of before Hyperdrama, who skates over the thumping, tense synthwave production in “Afterimage” with a silky timbre that’s to die for.

Another of my favorite songs and features though has to be “The End” with Thundercat. He’s SINGing on this one, cradled by moaning and fuzzy synths alike along with an awesome drum pattern that’s one of the most lively elements on this album, but the best part is with about a minute left, most of the instrumentation drops out and leaves Thundercat to croon on the nature of all things, how they eventually end, and how it’s best to push forward. It’s a cool, touching moment that plays well to his voice and the music doesn’t overshadow it. Understated, yet a solid end to an album that’s dynamic with the moods and approaches.

You know, I think I’ve convinced myself while writing this review that I like Hyperdrama more than I thought I did. I’m still not sold on a couple tracks (“Moonlight Rendez-vous” is gentle and sweet, almost seductive, but ultimately a bit lacking; same with “Muscle Memory” taking a swing at an epic feeling like “Audio, Video, Disco” did, but not as good), but all of them saturate the album in a specific type of drama and performance, hence its name. I appreciate that. This is some of Justice‘s most robust music ever that goes for something other than a catchy vibe, hard to do in the synthwave arena, but these two aren’t your average bedroom producers. It feels like a Denis Villeneuve film – dark, brooding shots with light breaking through windows or through dense fog or dirt to illuminate a vibrant world in striking, captivating color that you wanna know more about.

An eight-year wait made the anticipation for Hyperdrama earth-shattering, but even as I got it in my metaphorical hands, I wanted to and did approach it with all the soberly groundedness I could. Let’s be real, you shouldn’t come to us, me especially, for impartial, neutral reviews, but trying to take in this album more in that way made the climb to seeing its passion and greatness play out in a natural way was probably the best outcome. I tried real hard not to compare it too much to past works because it was clear from the beginning that this, like all their previous LPs, was different from the last. That’s one of the many strengths of Justice: the ability to metamorphosize and contort to fit whatever they wanna achieve without leaving their French house foundation behind. And who knows? Maybe with time this will be even more of a hit for the duo, a no-qualifications-needed, asteriskless trophy on their mantle. Until then, you can catch me yell-singing the lyrics to “Saturnine”.

David Rodriguez

David Rodriguez

"I came up and so could you, and fuck the boys in blue" - RMR

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