This Oxford, UK band has, more or less, invented their own pop sub-genre. People around them, and others, are calling it “Calypso-pop,” but it’s far beyond what that conveys.
And the Calypso part is so completely subsumed in the layered songwriting that it’s an unnecessary distraction to even mention it. They’re decidedly British, and I mean that in the best possible pop way, as in, their sense of pop music is artful, and is informed by some fancier colloquial considerations that exist in England and not so much in the States. Think XTC versus some dribbly American bubblegum-pop cheez whiz.
Fronted by Hugo Manuel, who also records as Chad Valley, there’s an intoxicated blending of swinging Brit-pop and sundry chamber elements in everything they do. The opener, “Swells,” immediately shows off their strong melodic abilities, and on the third song, “It’s My Part,” those Calypso-type rhythms arrive and they’re diving in headlong. There’s some great vocals, particularly the more difficult upper-register material. “Run,” for example, sounds a little like The Housemartins.
Lyrically it bounces around the dial and wraps the stories in the tricky melodies. A few parts have a tinge of Anberlin, and some might call it emo-lite, but it’s more complex than that. There have been comparisons to The Smiths, and I hear some Aztec Camera and The Delays. Well done.
And can we please stop using “emo” as nothing but a pejorative? Let’s not forget where all that music is rooted. Thank you.