The catch-up on album reviews continues, this time with debuts from Clean Cut Kid, The Big Moon and Will Joseph Cook, a sophomore effort from Sylvan Esso and the latest slice of political commentary from Father John Misty.
Clean Cut Kid – Felt
Clean Cut Kid’s debut album has been a long time coming, and it has finally arrived – “Felt”. I was told in an interview with the band last year that their debut was conceived as a concept album that goes over the arc of a relationship breaking up and the mood of the album certainly does evoke a certain reminiscence of Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Rumours’ – upbeat, catchy tracks about relationship misery and, later in the album, joy.
While a lot of these tracks have been previously released by the band as singles, some have been rerecorded and there’s a sense that they all click into place in the context of the album. ‘Vitamin C’ is forever a highlight, as is the brilliantly catchy ‘Leaving You Behind’, but it’s honestly quite hard to fault any track on this album. Clean Cut Kid have a real niche cut out for them with their emotionally charged indie pop, and those emotions really shine through on the slower tracks, particularly ‘Time To Let You Go’.
The band have a distinct style running through the album, with some lovely pop harmonies, and for the duration of ‘Felt’ this style doesn’t get too tired either. This is a really strong debut album from Clean Cut Kid, and while they’ll need to branch out their style more for a successful second album (I’d quite like to see some more guitar riff-based, rockier tunes like the fantastic finale track ‘Pick Me Up’, that song has a phenomenal riff), this is a great introduction to the band, and one that excellently delivers on their concept album promise.
Sylvan Esso – What Now
Indie pop duo Sylvan Esso’s sophomore album ‘What Now’ is a blend of the organic and the electronic. Vocalist Amelia Meath comes from a more folk-based background and you can really hear it in her vocal delivery in opening tracks ‘Sound’ and ‘The Glow’, the former of which is a near-acapella piece that demonstrates perfectly the band’s bridging between genres.
Sometimes this juxtaposition between Meath’s gentle vocals and the harsh synthesisers gets a little too much, it certainly takes a bit of getting used to, but the duo absolutely nail the middle ground on the singles ‘Radio’ and ‘Kick Jump Twist’ with their syncopated beats and catchy choruses – these are some serious party tracks that should be making it onto any indie party playlist this year.
While at times ‘What Now’ feels like a bit of a war between two genres, it’s great fun to watch the fallout from it, and some of the best indie pop tracks of 2017 so far can be found here. This is one of those albums you can’t help but dance to, and you can really feel they’ve had fun recording this one. The journey through this album is worth it just to hear Amelia’s stunning, pure vocals, and if there’s one thing this second album isn’t, it’s difficult.
Father John Misty – Pure Comedy
Josh Tillman, the man behind the moniker Father John Misty, is a real enigma. Watch any interview with him and you’ll see a truly fascinating man – highly cynical, yet insightful. That’s the man we see on ‘Pure Comedy’. Running through it is a core of wonderful, unabashed cynicism, from the very opening lines of this lengthy album.
Something of the songwriting on ‘Pure Comedy’ smacks of Elton John, and his vocal delivery isn’t dissimilar either – there’s a very classic feel to all these piano and acoustic guitar ballads that is perfectly juxtaposed by Tillman’s modern day-referencing, politically relevant lyrics. It’ll be interesting to see how ‘Pure Comedy’ holds up in a few years time, when the lyrics are so relevant today.c
‘All of the pretentious, ignorant voices that will go unchecked,
The homophobes, hipsters and 1%’
The only complaint that could be made about this album is about its length – clocking in at a behemoth 74 minues, this is a seriously hefty album and while the songwriting is of an incredible standard throughout, it feels a little tired at times. This comes to a fore on the 13-minute ‘Leaving L.A.’, which doesn’t quite do enough to justify its length compared to the phenomenal ‘So I’m Growing Old on Magic Mountain’ which may just be one of the best songs of the year and fully justifies its 10-minute runtime with some beautiful instrumental work in the second half.
As a piece of songwriting, of modern poetry, you’ll struggle to find anything better than ‘Pure Comedy’ released this year. While its runtime may be a problem, Father John Misty’s commentary is poignant, and if music can’t be overtly political at a time like this, when can it?
The Big Moon – Love In The 4th Dimension
The Big Moon have finally unleashed their debut album ‘Love In The 4th Dimension’ and it is a remarkably polished piece for a debut from an indie rock band. The guitar riffs and natural swagger the quartet has is reminiscent of the earliest work by Arctic Monkeys, and there are some huge singalong numbers on this album that you can tell have been tried and tested extensively at gigs.
While this is a solid collection of indie rock tracks, ‘Love In The 4th Dimension’ is lacking a certain sense of excitement in places – some of the rawness and energy has been lost in the transition from the stage to the studio and by the end the guitar riffs are starting to wear a little thin. This is clearly an album that was made to be played live in a sweaty club with every word being sung along to, and this just isn’t quite captured on record, though you can almost hear ‘Formidable’ being an anthem in years to come.
This LP was apparently recorded in just 12 days and while it has done its best to capture the feeling of the band and has given the album a sense of cohesiveness, perhaps a little more time to gestate could have given it some more variety in sound – if you’re looking for an album of consistent indie rock singalongs though, look no further. It’s here, and it might just be a big part of the next indie rock revolution.
Will Joseph Cook – Sweet Dreamer
Will Joseph Cook has had my interest piqued for quite a while now, ever since I first heard his 2016 single ‘Girls Like Me’, which made it into my Top 20 Tracks of 2016. Since then, Will has had a golden streak of singles including ‘Take Me Dancing’ and ‘Beach’, and his debut album ‘Sweet Dreamer’ certainly doesn’t disappoint.
On ‘Sweet Dreamer’, Will Joseph Cook gives us an absolutely fantastic collection of catchy, inventive indie pop songs, and Will’s vocals are magnetic and unlike any other songwriter I’ve heard in recent years. Every song on this album is excellent, but other than the aforementioned singles, ‘Treat Me Like A Lover’ and the gorgeous ballad ‘Water’s Gone Cold’ are diamonds amongst the gold.
Jack Steadman of Bombay Bicycle Club, these days under the moniker ‘Mr Jukes’, makes some appearances in the production of this album and you can really feel the influence that Bombay Bicycle Club’s final album ‘So Long, See You Tomorrow’ has had on Will, particularly on ‘Plastic’ – Mr Jukes’ production compliments Will’s songwriting style so well and I hope the partnership returns in the future.
Will Joseph Cook is without a doubt one of the biggest rising stars in British music at the moment. Writing an indie pop album this strong is no mean feat and Will has pulled it off with gusto, leaving the listener hungry for more – I certainly am.