Album Review: Slow Club – Complete Surrender

By on Friday, 11th July 2014 at 12:00 pm
 

Sheffield neo-folk duo Slow Club are set to release their steamy third album ‘Complete Surrender’ just in time for the heat of the summer. ‘Complete Surrender’ is a deliciously refreshing blend of uptempo pop, emotional balladry and r&b groove. The individual tracks are a study in contrasts, with a mix of radio-friendly dance tunes, bluesy torch songs and introspective acoustic numbers, maintaining variety and momentum through the pleasantly relaxed vibe that permeates the album.

The recent trend of juxtaposing male and female lead vocals is almost always a winner in my book, and ‘Complete Surrender’ is no exception. The real star of the album is Rebecca Taylor’s singing voice. It’s rare in pop music to find a female voice that is both powerful and sensitive to dynamic without being rough or raspy. Taylor maintains a pleasant tone quality on both ends of the dynamic spectrum, and she executes a wide range in terms of pitch and emotional quality. By contrast, Charles Watson’s smooth, even vocal tone plays nicely off of Taylor’s flashy flexibility.

The album’s opening track ‘Tears of Joy’ eases in with a slow jam, which is perhaps an unusual choice on a record containing crisply upbeat tracks like the eponymous ‘Complete Surrender’ (featured as Video of the Moment here). But it’s those exquisite slow burning moments that make this album stand out as something special among the blitz of typical mainstream dance pop.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P960eGWFEGo&feature=share&list=PLS02rPvIUWwI94HzdBCr8LdA2d_DjZw40&index=4[/youtube]

The bluesy ‘Suffering You, Suffering Me’ (also featured in a recent Video of the Moment) is a surefire radio hit, with its lush brass instrumentation and Taylor’s sultry vocals. ‘Not Mine to Love’ takes the blues influence even further, featuring wailing guitars and forlorn lyrics about lost love; Taylor’s perfectly executed vocal improvisation in the final chorus is not to be missed. She shows the deeper, softer side of her voice on the theatrical torch song ‘Dependable People and Things That I’m Sure Of’, and country-folk waltz ‘The Queen’s Nose’.

Watson’s lead vocals are featured in a variety of musical contexts as well, including rhythmic groovy track ‘The Pieces’, piano ballad ‘Number One’ and the expansive final track ‘Wanderer Wandering’. But his singing is at its most effective on acoustic folk tune ‘Paraguay and Panama’, where he gently croons through the lilting melody and misty lyrics, “Painted girl upon the wall, covered carefully in Paraguay and Panama, you were the hourglass beauty queen, just flick your hair and move your lips around, in the shape of words that you knew before all of this”.

‘Complete Surrender’ is one of those rare albums that experiments with a variety of musical styles and somehow manages to combine them into a cohesive unit. In this case, Slow Club use their refined lyrical expression and emotional sensitivity, not to mention some brilliant singing, to unify the songs and keep the energy flowing through all 11 tracks. (Insider tip: Don’t miss the sneaky hidden track at the end).

8.5/10

‘Complete Surrender’, the third album from Sheffield’s Slow Club, will be released on Monday (the 14th of July) on Caroline International. It can be streamed at The Guardian, here.

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