London trio take electro-pop to new places.
Camilla Pia 2010-01-11
Last year both Little Boots and La Roux carved their mugs into the musical rockery, and as we write, 2010 is predicted to belong to Ellie Goulding. So you could be forgiven for feeling a little shoulder shruggy about British born lady-led electro-pop. Haven’t we heard quite enough for now?
Chew Lips say no. And it’s impossible to argue with a debut like Unicorn. Stripped of all the superficial polish and glitzy sheen that so often equips haters with all the ammunition they need to call this genre throwaway, the band have crafted a truly unique, low-key and yet utterly captivating sound. The ten tracks are based around varying combinations of fluttering synths, big basslines, pianos, guitars, beats and strings; all intricately arranged to showcase the real standout element of this record – lead singer Tigs’ sumptuous vocals.
It’s a corker of a voice; the type that makes you want to skip with joy when it soars and then drags the heart over hot coals in its more melancholy renderings. As such Gold Key, with its sweetly sung talk of tied hands and playing with guns, takes on an even more sinister quality, Karen’s incredibly catchy melody has huge impact driven by Tigs’ very capable lung power, and stark ballads Piano Song and Too Much Talking are downright catch-your-breath sad.
But it’s not all just smiles and sobs. Propelling Chew Lips is a sonic expertise and wizardry that would leave even the most technically minded musician scratching their noggin in an attempt to get to the bottom of the band’s dynamic This is where tracks like Slick, Eight and Play Together come in; all three baffling displays of savvy songwriting and subtle arrangement complete with well-timed starts, stops and instrumental breakdowns
And all too quickly it’s over, and you’ll want to go right back to the start again. Because Unicorn is that rarest of things: a record imbued with genuine talent and emotion which wipes the floor with the majority of its makers’ contemporaries, while calling to mind the classic vocals of Karen Carpenter and the pioneering spirit of Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Quite startling.