Judgment Call: Slow Club’s Yeah, So

The U.K.'s Slow Club

More Folky Twee Pop, With a Twist
Slow Club manages indie pop that feels both familiar and fresh

The folky twee pop of the U.K.’s Slow Club is not revolutionary or even novel. The band, hailing from Sheffield, England, is a boy-girl indie pop duo whose debut album, “Yeah, So,” is a charming compilation of love songs. Yeah, so? Though the band’s sound nearly replicates the delicacy of its contemporaries, the album is interesting in its penchant for sheer delight and momentary surprises. With only a few slight missteps, “Yeah, So,” is a pleasantly cutesy soundtrack to warm summertime romance, imbued with the occasional wisdom of viewing youth – and all romantic foibles – in hindsight.

Slow Club formed in 2006 and released “Yeah, So” in Europe in July 2009, though the album didn’t officially debut in North America until late March. The band’s folk instrumentation is typical of indie pop but with a twist – the music, silly, fun, sharp and unpolished, incorporates unusual musical instruments into the equation, from water-filled glass bottles to spoons and even the occasional wooden chair. It’s with this small defiance of the norm that Slow Club really hits their stride. The instrumentality becomes a brutish force, a whirlwind of percussion and faster tempos engaging in an excitable playfulness which truly allows Slow Club to thrive in an over-saturated genre.

In its most frenetic, percussive moments, “Yeah, So” plays like a thrash pop album, not an ode to love stories. Charles Watson (vocals, guitar) and Rebecca Taylor (vocals, guitar, percussion), the duo behind Slow Club, produce Beach Boy-inspired delicacies, but when the tempo slows, the tracks meander to dwindling musical theater. “Our Most Brilliant Friends,” the loping and lengthy closing track, features Taylor’s soft and delicate vocals but is, in its first half, a plaintive serenade, sappy and overwrought. Only when, as the song closes, Watson and Taylor employ their usual strangeness (particularly in lyricism, with lines such as “And I definitely want to be a rapper/But I’m just a northern girl from where nothing really happens/And the bones inside my shins are crumbling (x5)/ It’s from all the crunking I’ve been doing”) does the song become original and divergent from the band’s peers.

While these comparisons seem inevitable, the continued change in tempo and vocal timbre makes “Yeah, So” truly interesting. With each track comes another comparison to be made. The first track, “When I Go,” could easily be confused for a “Let’s Get Out of this Country”-era Camera Obscura, while track four, “It Doesn’t Have to be Beautiful,” shares the jangly, loose-lipped qualities of 1970s Buzzcocks. “Apples and Pairs,” one of the album’s final tracks, could readily be mistaken for a Sondre Lerche B-side, but even these comparisons, these similarities to other artists, emphasize the uniqueness of Slow Club. Watson’s voice takes on one sound after another, channeling first the jaunty sweetness of She & Him’s M. Ward and then the gruffness of Chicago’s Horse in the Sea. Each song is independently mixtape-worthy, with the childish chorus of “Our Most Brilliant Friends” effortlessly juxtaposed beside any number of other sentimental pop love songs.

Taylor and Watson often sing in unison, and their voices melding together make for the most rockabilly sing-a-longs, set to the raucous percussion of the majority of tracks on “Yeah, So.”  More than anything, “Yeah, So” and the persona of Slow Club is adorable. This quality, the ability of the band to sound simultaneously wise and youthfully earnest, is the album’s biggest charm. The album progresses from cheery optimism to a reverent kind of resignation, from the opening plea to make a pact to spend their lives together on “When I Go” to the realization that a partner “was hard to please,” in the album finale, but it remains always pleasing. The familiarity of these sentiments, and of Slow Club, make “Yeah, So” feel cozy and well-worn, but the pop ditties are optimistic and catchy enough to make any similarities to other acts negligible. Slow Club achieves romanticism and vulnerability without being melodramatic, and the percussive rowdiness makes the album just fun enough to forget any purported lack of innovation.

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