First Listen: Slow Club, 'Complete Surrender'
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Sheffield, England — the setting for The Full Monty
and part of the British equivalent of the Rust Belt — seems an unlikely spawning ground for the wistful pop of this duo with a deceptively static name. But from the youthful, acoustic-and-harmony-based pop of their early material to the more elaborate arrangements of 2011's Paradise
, Slow Club's music has always had an upful sheen that's sometimes belied by melancholy lyrics and melodies.
For Complete Surrender
, their third full-length, singers and multi-instrumentalists Charles Watson and Rebecca Taylor have moved on from their earlier releases, streamlining and refining their songwriting while hauling in a truckload of R&B influences from several different eras. Northern soul has been a strong tradition in the north of England since the 1960s, and here the duo has brought a crate-digger's expertise to their soulful sounds.
There's a heaping spoonful of Motown in "Suffering," some Supremes/Bacharach flourishes on the title track, Philly soul strings in "Not Mine to Love" and a giant Stax Records/Otis Redding influence and a bring-the-house-down vocal from Taylor on ... er ... yes, a song actually called "The Queen's Nose." (The title, which comes from a children's book and 1990s BBC TV series, will be baffling to anyone who isn't a Brit of a certain age; the song's lyrics address heartbreak, music and, apparently, pregnancy but not the book or show, at least not overtly).
While not a retro album, there's definitely a silky '60s groove to much of Complete Surrender
"We wanted to make a straight record — drums, bass, organ, guitar, maybe strings," Watson says. "The idea behind it was to be a bit more reserved." Indeed, Taylor is a singer of rare subtlety and skill. She doesn't bowl you over with showboating and Aguilera-style pyrotechnics. You just suddenly realize, wow, she's killing
it on that chorus.
The duo has already released a pair of videos from the album: the title track
, which finds Taylor unexpectedly glammed up and dancing, and the Rocky
-themed "Suffering You, Suffering Me,"
where she's anything but.
The group — which has toured with Mumford and Sons
, KT Tunstall
and Florence and the Machine
, among others — did a quick Stateside run last month but will be back for a full tour in September. Slow Club expands to a quartet (and sometimes more) in a live setting, and while the group's show is dazzling for any number of reasons, the sight of Taylor playing the drums in a cocktail dress while belting out a soulful ballad is particularly not to be missed.
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Click each song title for individual tracks, the last track is the album in its entirety.