I’m not sure where I first heard of Chew Lips. Having gathered the names of a number of new bands for the purpose of this challenge in a relatively short space of time I genuinely can’t remember where I found out about them all. All I’m sure of is I needed a ‘C’ and Chew Lips appeared to be getting some buzz for 2010 so, without knowing anything about their sound, onto the list they went.
Obviously, with the premise of this whole challenge being about finding new bands, I hadn’t previously come across debut singles Solo and Salt Air. As such I couldn’t really pass judgement on whether they are either ‘supremely confident or reckless’ as suggested by Q Magazine in their album review (Q283). What I can say is with tracks like Toro, Karen, Play Together, Slick and Eight I’m leaning heavily towards ‘supremely confident’ and justifiably so.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying this is album of the year material (or even album of the month, hey, it’s been a very strong month) but this is more than just a solid debut. Seemingly channelling both Karen O and Beth Orton singer Tigs’ voice has a wistful, sometime ethereal quality to it. This is particularly evident in closing track, Piano Song, which is almost A Capella with nothing but (unsurprisingly) a simple piano track with occasional electronic whirring underscoring the lyrics.
In fact, given the energy showcased in Solo and Salt Air, it’s a little surprising just how understated Unicorn is as an album. They’ve been described as minimalist electronica and I can see why; certainly the sometimes-delicate arrangements seem designed to showcase the lyrics and Tigs’ vocals. That said, there is still plenty here to get excited about and that you’ll find running through your brain hours after listening.
Unicorn is beautifully crafted, opening with the hauntingly melancholic Eight before upping the tempo into Play Together (the first single from the album) and Slick. Karen is the sort of track that sits on radio play-lists for ages and, along with Toro, shows that La Roux are not the only ones who can do intelligent, chart friendly electric pop.
As an aside, how achingly cool is the Kitsuné label? La Roux, Delphic, Two Door Cinema Club, Ficherspooner, Autokratz and now Chew Lips. Talk about tapping into the zeitgeist.
As a whole though Unicorn is more eloquent than some of Chew Lips’ contemporaries and whilst many try to create the ultimate floor-filler, this is much more of a Sunday morning, post club album. Upbeat enough to hark back to the previous nights festivities, subtle and melodic enough to nurse even the sorest of heads. Besides, you want floor-fillers? That’s what remixes are for.
Still you can’t help feeling something is missing. It’s not the length (though 33 minutes is somewhat on the short side) and as I say the album is beautifully crafted, each track complimenting each other as you journey through from Eight to closer Piano Song. Perhaps the idea was to take a relatively simple approach or maybe Unicorn is designed to leave us all wanting more. I’m certainly looking forward to hearing what Chew Lips do next, so if that is the case, job done.