Hailing from the Greater Manchester town of Stockport, Blossoms appear poised to be the next North West musical success story. At Austin in March of last year, they opened the BBC Introducing night at SXSW 2015, garnering much attention for the curious Americans eager to hear the next big thing from across the pond. They followed that up with a rousing appearance at Dr. Martens’ stage at the Green Door Store at the Great Escape 2015. A few short months later, it was revealed the five-piece had inked a deal with Virgin EMI. Which brings us to their debut album that will be released to the wild this very Friday. Does ‘Blossoms’ deliver on the promise of their earlier singles and EPs? The first time I listened to the album from beginning to end, I was both overjoyed and pleasantly surprised.
It’s entirely reasonable to expect following a band’s signing to a major label (in this case, Virgin EMI) that the rough edges of their music would be sanded down considerably from how you remember they sounded. And yes, ‘Blossoms’ sounds very good, just as you would imagine for an album recorded at Liverpool’s famed Parr Street Studios and produced by Parr Street’s resident engineer Rich Turvey and the Coral’s James Skelly. However, on a pop album much more so than a rock one, the polishing up of Blossoms’ sound is overwhelmingly a positive rather than a negative. ‘Blown Rose’ went down a treat at SXSW last year, and it’s now been retooled into something brighter and breezier.
The catchiness of their songcraft is maintained throughout the record, which can only be a good thing. The album is front-loaded with a four-pack of songs guaranteed to wow. The sequence starts off like a shot with past single ‘Charlemagne’. It’s named after a Holy Roman Emperor, but Ogden seems to be detailing the pain of lost love, accompanied by squeals of lead guitarist Josh Dewhurst’s axe. It’s swiftly followed by another previously released track, ‘At Most a Kiss’. It’s another synth-laden, driving rhythm framing a tale of unrequited love that feels at times seems so close but in reality is so far away.
‘Getaway’ was unveiled in May at the same time as news of the forthcoming debut album broke. What relationships have morphed into over the years has certainly changed with the times, and this is the millennial take on what ‘80s kids had with Phil Collins’ ‘One More Night’ and us ‘90s kids did the same with Eagle Eye Cherry’s ‘Save Tonight’. Ogden sings in the chorus, “I’m over you, get under me”, as if this night together doesn’t matter. But we know better. ‘Honey Sweet’, revealed in a stripped-back version for VEVO UK last week, sounds straight out of the ‘80s thanks to Myles Kellock’s sparkling synths. Ogden’s yearnings ring optimistic despite things not being entirely perfect: “there’s no doubt / you still love me / you’d still love this incomplete”.
The introduction of a few ballads from a Northern group – a group who had made their name early on with psychedelia-tinged melodic sing-alongs like ‘Cut Me and I’ll Bleed’ and ‘Blow’, I wish to point out – shouldn’t work. And yet they do. A song title like ‘Onto Her Bed’ sounds pretty salacious, but it’s a simple torch song, Ogden’s voice joined by a jazzy piano. It seems out of place with the characters I met at SXSW but hey, I’m sure the same thing was said at the time about the Beatles’ ‘And I Love Her’.
On the sheer novelty side of the spectrum, ‘Smashed Pianos’ and ‘Deep Grass’ stand out as valiant Northern attempts at r&b. Charlie Salt’s funky bass line anchors the former, Blossoms’ version of Katy Perry’s ‘Hot and Cold’. The organ chords and syncopation of the beats of album closer ‘Deep Grass’ match well with Ogden’s oozy, woozy vocals. Fuzzed out guitar concludes the album, as if to say that the band’s psychedelic roots still exist.
While this debut places Blossoms firmly in the indie pop camp, this is just one snapshot in time. Turning your attention away from the pop vocals and synths for a moment, the promising guitar and bass work here suggest there’s plenty of room for these Northerners to grow on their next album.
The eponymous debut album from Stockport psych pop group Blossoms will be released this Friday, the 5th of August, on Virgin EMI. For more of TGTF’s coverage of Blossoms, follow this link.