By Kev Scott
The pace of ‘London Bound’, the opening track of Just handshakes debut album Say It, grabs from the off. The bassline kicks in and quickly brushed symbols come along and suddenly it’s not 2013, where everything’s shit, it’s 1986 and New Order are there and there’s optimism among all the shit. The melody in the chorus is hugely upbeat, Clara Patrick’s lilting vocal sounds like spring itself and before the track’s finished this massive smile has appeared and just for a minute everything’s not as shit as it was five minutes ago. The nostalgic lyrics even back this up: “Those days when we were carefree and we thought that nothing would ever change.”As opening tracks go, it’s pretty good then, and making it lead single was a wise move. Watch out Slow Club, the indie pop crown just got a new contender.
Every track has every ingredient indie pop ever needed: there are crisp vocals, jangling guitars moving between tidy riffs and shimmering chords, melodies sweet enough to sprinkle all over your summer. Christ, they’re from Leeds and the album is being released by a Californian label!
Title track ‘Say It’ is the sound of a band wondering what life has in store and hopeful that the answer, when it comes, will be positive. “How many days staring at the ceiling, when will you find something to believe in?”
There’s a folky intonation to Patrick’s voice that fits the band as perfectly as a C86 tape fitted a cassette player. The conversational nature of the verses works well too, Patrick addressing her equal, whether it’s a lover or the listener is irrelevant. For twenty-somethings not long out of university and wondering why they made the investment, here is a band that understands but isn’t utterly despondent about it all.
As the album develops so too does its sound, synths becoming more prominent, adding a new dimension. It’s mature, which you’d expect given the band have been recording for a couple of years now and in its mellower moments you can hear elements of Stereolab along with the afore-mentioned C86 influences.
It’s not faultless – but debuts aren’t. ‘Dead and Alive’ is perhaps a little too jaunty in the verse, although the chorus has another great hook. ‘Cut & Run’ sounds as though it was written before the bulk of the album, and its fuzzier feel is at odds with the tracks that surround it. And the cover artwork seems to be similarly at odds with the overarching theme of the album.
These are small matters though. By the time the sound swells on ‘Stick Around’ and closer ‘Balmoral’ has arrested your pulse, there’s only one place to go and that’s back to the start again.
The band may have taken their time to release Say It, but it’s been worth the wait. Just Handshakes? Forget that, get over here and give me a big hug.