Slow Club’s debut album, Yeah, So, is indie-pop perfection. It’s just the right mix of sincerity and whimsy; sweet without being cloying, heartfelt without being trite. Rebecca Taylor and Charles Watson captured the topsy-turvy spirit of post-adolescence, from bubbly songs about broken hearts to wistful tunes about new relationships. I figured Slow Club’s follow-up would be more of the same: a little older and wiser, perhaps, but full of their signature folk-pop duets. They’d done so well the first time around, I couldn’t think of any reason to tamper with such a charming formula.
I was dead wrong. One spin of Paradise proved that this sophomore effort is not only different, it’s so much better. Rebecca and Charles have moved far beyond adolescence, switching spunky folk for sophisticated pop. Elements of their earlier sound are certainly present, but even those are more mature: think of songs like Hackney Marsh as I Was Unconscious, It Was a Dream, version 2.0. If Yeah, So was the perfect encapsulation of one phase of life, Paradise shows that same lyrical sensibility in this new one.
In every way, the album has surpassed its predecessor. Songs like the achingly beautiful You, Earth or Ash or the melancholic Horses Jumping are ambitious and incredibly successful; they showcase newfound vocal strength in addition to stylistic complexity. Rebecca’s voice in particular simply soars over the album, turning songs like Never Look Back into soulful lamentations. She sounds confidently self-aware on the vibrant (and dare I say, seductive) Where I’m Waking, crooning “you’ve got the brains, I’ve got the body” with newfound assurance. The vocal textures of both singers add further nuance to the album’s ten tracks, and the result is powerful and compelling.
Paradise is much darker than the duo’s buoyant debut, but that suits them brilliantly. In my humble opinion, this offering from the band formerly-known-as-twee is one of the best albums of the year. Give it a listen —you’ll thank me.