“Fortunately, Adranga has found the perfect outlet for his pop obsessions in his one-man-band, the Junior League, whose songs echo all the usual suspects—the Beatles, Big Star, the Smiths—not through direct reference, but with nascent traits of these bands bubbling up from Adranga’s DNA. Smile Shoot Smile reflects a lot of maturation since the band’s appropriately named 2006 debut Catchy, trading some of the bubblegum for hardier fare. The Junior League, on album anyway, is all Joe, playing and writing all the parts. In “Everybody Loves Me (but You)” and “It’s the End,” he drops hooks as effortlessly as a pro angler. It’s the deeper waters he explores on this record, however, that reveal Adranga to be more than a sharp-eared pop stylist. The bittersweet edge of “Princess Stephanie” and the scintillating “Man Called Disaster”—opening with “lost in the haze of middle-age / you bask in the glow of trails you blazed”—illuminates the honesty that comes wit”
“New Orleans singer/songwriter Joe Adragna is actually a league all on his own, as he writes, produces and plays virtually everything on this, the second Junior League CD. Interestingly there are no photos of Joe. He has chosen to represent the Junior League with shots of 60s beach babes and mini skirts - possibly a wise move! Whilst Mr.Adragna is clearly a fan of The Beatles, The Monkees and many classic pop influences, but he doesn't allow the influences to become blatant. 'Smile, Shoot, Smile' is brimming with subtle, slightly understated melodies, nice harmonies and inventive, economic guitar parts.
“...Adragna's veteran New Orleans band the Junior League remains one of the most slept-on of the past few years, and it’s a shame; his perfectionist take on jangly power-pop is earnest and quite masterful. On his 2011 release “Fall Back,” two grand masters of the sound – REM’s Peter Buck and the Minus 5 and Young Fresh Fellows’ Scott McCaughey cast their votes in favor of his talent. More New Orleanians probably should, too.”
New Orleans Times-Picayune
“Joe Adragna has done it again. The man behind The Junior League, whose 2006 debut Catchy was precisely that and then some, has brought us a new collection of power poppin' tunes that may even be better than the debut.
As mentioned in my review of Catchy, Adragna might be the next best thing to Marshall Crenshaw in terms of his similar vocal and musical styles. And "Everybody Loves Me (But You)" with its easygoing melodic charm is Exhibit A for this comparison. "Always Last on the Same Route" has enough of a rootsy retro sound to pass for a lost Grip Weeds classic, and the pensive "Man Called Disaster" recalls some of Crenshaw's recent work. Meanwhile, the rocking (and rollicking) "It's the End" brings Eugene Edwards to mind, "Memories" has that 60s rock sound down, and "Hey! Pop Life" is garage goodness (Little Steven needs to hear this one pronto). No sophomore slump here.”
“Not really a band effort, it was, in fact, recorded entirely by frontman Joe Adragna - but the album title is positively spot on! Featuring lotsa crunchy and jangly guitars, nice harmonies and tons o' hooks! "'These Tender Things' is anything but tender in its sound, a blend of Kinks-rock and garage pop. 'This Is What We Are' might be the standout on the disc, providing the answer 'damn great' to the musical question 'What would Marshall Crenshaw sound like if he were backed by The Smithereens?'”
“The Junior League aka Joe Adragna once again has delivered some pop goodness to follow up his debut “Catchy”. The new album has plenty of sharp pop craft along the lines of REM jangle and The Beatles, with a touch of Toad The Wet Sprocket. Joe is more than a one man band here, as the opener “Everybody Loves Me (But You)” has much in common with Buffalo Springfield and Brian Wilson. The songs are cleanly produced and well written – “It’s The End” pumps up the volume in this traditional break up song with forceful guitar riffs. The melodic and mellow tunes do the best here, from “What I Am” to the sunny “Memories” remind me of Stealers Wheel in the baseline...But it goes the other way as “Princess Stephanie” is true pop gem, with a soulful vocal and toe tapping chorus and “Hey, Pop Life” brings to mind The Ramones. Some deep lyrical work in “I Never Thought” refer to the struggle with letting go, as he sings “I never thought I’d be so tired..” We”
“Joe Adragna’s a pop purist. As the Junior League, he embraced pop’s exuberance as well as the craft that makes great songs. On Fall Back, the energy’s dialed down and the mood’s a little autumnal, but his affection for a beautiful song is clear, as is his desire to make pop that stays with you for more than the three minutes most of his songs take to say their piece. Sometimes it’s a chorus that catches you—the Byrds-like “You’re Gonna Die Alone,” which doesn’t celebrate that knowledge—a melody you’d like to move into (“Ladders”) or a line that draws you into the song (“I don’t mind drinking until I’m hollow,” for example, in “Far Away”).”
“When you title an album "Catchy", you`re either being ironic or confident. In the case of the Junior League (actually singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Joe Adragna), it`s clearly the latter. Adragna has crafted a fine disc of breakup and post-breakup songs in a power pop setting that calls to mind many of the touchstones of the genre.”
— Absolute Power Pop
"Catchy" could not be a more appropriate name. 12 String Jangle Alert, too! The Junior League are Major League power pop for many Not Lamers....Fans of Sloan, The Gripweeds, classic Lemonheads power pop, Big Star and bands that have been influenced by Buffalo Springfield but are making modern-day pop, The Junior League are IT.
— Not Lame
“..With help from Scott McCaughey and Peter Buck of the R.E.M., Minus 5, Young Fresh Fellows nexus, as well as Susan Cowsill and others (even ex-Squirrel Bait punk singer Peter Searcy, oddly on cello!), the talented multi-instrumentalist plies the post-Byrds jangle-pop feel of Buck’s R.E.M. circa “Maps and Legends” on songs like “You’re Gonna Die Alone,” while pushing minor country buttons elsewhere (like the pedal-steel-crying “Far Away”), and “falling back” on his deep production, careful arrangements, and “catchy” vocals. Like Joe Pernice, who works along similar lines, this man has a profound respect for a lovingly well-crafted tune, and it shows over and over.
"You're Gonna Die Alone", the disc's best track..Rickenbackers and the vitriol of an Elvis Costello with a catchy melody (and featuring harmony vocals from Susan Cowsill), it's almost worth the price of admission alone..The moody opener "In a Place (Looking Around)" recalls Salim Nourallah with a slight touch of electronica, the laid-back, beautiful "Like Nothing Else"..and "Far Away" is an outright country weeper, complete with pedal steel.
Adragna comes in for the finish with "Swezey's", a return of the jangle, the feedback-drenched "Depot Park", and the bright and breezy "Help, It's Strange", which is right in his sweet spot. The title track closes things out on a perfect note, a combination of regret, hope and those jangly guitars as it fades to a "bah-dop-bah" refrain. Adragna has really taken a leap forward here, and I can see why he chose to release this under his own name.