It’s been a long time since we made London based, and inspired, Spanish singer-songwriter Juan Zelada our very first Alphabet Band, way back in November 2010 in fact. Since that time he has broken out and achieved heavy rotation and support from the likes of Radio 2. His blend of mellow but engaging pop-funk has been warmly embraced by the nation’s most loved radio station and each of his three most recent singles have been made record of the week. Now, with momentum and a major label behind him, he is releasing his debut album, High Ceilings & Collarbones and is set to charm us all.
1. The Blues Remain
2. Breakfast In Spitalfields
3. Baby Be Mine
5. What Do I Know
7. The Boy With The Television On
8. Open Up My Eyes
10. Four Days
11. I Can’t Love
12. Don’t You Hold Me Down (Live)
As a kid, there was always this mindset that an artist would stick their best known single towards the end of an album to get you to listen to the whole thing. Artists who chose to lead off the album with what was nominally their strongest song were always seen as brave, stupid or brilliant; occasionally all three.
By that logic, choosing to lead off his debut album with both of his best known songs, the ones with the most radio play and which have been mainstays in his live set for well over a year, could mean Zelada is utterly fearless or entirely mad. Of course, the logic of childhood is often found to be flawed as one matures, and so it is that Zelada’s potentialy bold gambit is nothing more than a mark of confidence and assurance. As the keys tinkle their solo introduction to “The Blues Remain” you already feel at ease and eager for what is to come. By the time the horns have added their rich, warm sound, you feel as cosy as if you were settled by a roaring log fire as winter rages silently out your window.
That it all feels rather effortless is testament to the quality of the craft on show. The arrangements are intelligent, with sounds swelling and falling naturally, in perfect harmony with one another. The lyrics move seamlessly from wide eyed innocence to giving a knowing wink, with the kind of cheek that only someone so damned charming could get away with.
Practically every song is a gem but the stand out track is “Elsewhere”. It’s a bass hungry tale of confusion, remorse and the shattering of a relationship that adds a soupçon of drama to proceedings. Then it is back to the brass and the groove with latest single “What Do I Know” and “Barman”, a funked up jam calling out for ‘one more for the road’.
Zelada is an engaging and captivating performer and this pleasant amiability translates well to his recorded work. It may not convey the vibrancy of his live show, but there are toe-tapping sing-a-long-a moments a-plenty to be found and more often than not, a smile will have made its way to your face without you even realising. This is an album of affection and of James Bond level smoothness and the sumptuous blend of blues, funk, soul and pop makes for a very easy and enjoyable listen.